Book Review: The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

In THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D., Nichole Bernier explores the innermost thoughts of women that often go unexpressed. It’s a very touching novel that will have you questioning just how well you know your very closest friends, and reflecting on your own life and dreams that perhaps you gave up in pursuit of a different path.

THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D.┬átakes place a year after the events of 9/11 as Elizabeth’s husband is working to put his life back together after his wife’s death in a plane crash. Among her possessions is a trunk of diaries which she has bequeathed to her best friend, Kate. Dave, Elizabeth’s widower, hands the journals over to Kate, wondering what they could possibly contain. As Kate begins reading them during her summer on Great Rock Island, she is startled to learn about Elizabeth’s past and begins to question just how well she really knew Elizabeth. Reading Elizabeth’s journals also makes Kate uncertain about her relationship with her husband, Chris, and the choices she must make about her career.

We all have different reasons for writing in journals, and my biggest reason for keeping one as a pre-teen and teenager (and even through college) was so that I could sort through what I considered the messy bits of my life. I was forever trying to understand boys (they hardly deserved to be called men–even when they were college age) and my journals helped me organize my very dramatic emotions. When I later looked back on those handwritten pages, I cringed at what I discovered about myself. I eventually stopped documenting my life, though I briefly wrote an entertaining, public online journal and had a decent “fan following”.

I could certainly relate to Elizabeth, who went through some very drastic changes and was a very different person at the end of her short life than she was when she first began her journals. My heart ached for Kate, who not only lost her best friend, but also got to know a very different side of her. Even though I read some of Elizabeth’s most personal thoughts, I still did not feel as if I knew her as well as I should have–or perhaps I just did not understand her as well as Kate did.

THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D. was a bit different than what I had been expecting as well; I was sure that Elizabeth was hiding something very significant from everyone–and she was–but it wasn’t quite the scandalous matter that I had built it up in my head to be. I was also completely wrong about matters in Kate’s own marriage; however, the blow I was waiting for in their marriage could still be a possibility, even though Bernier never touches further on it and there are only a few whispers of a larger dilemma.

Bernier’s writing is solid and beautiful; the characters were moving and real, and the story is one that will remain with me for quite some time. It’s truly hard to believe that this is her first novel!

On shelves June 5th, 2012. Pre-order your copy on

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