Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. - Nichole Bernier

Lots and lots of great reviews on this book, but it was Beth Fish Reads that pushed me over the line.  That girl can write a compelling review.  

So, despite the HUGE PILES of print books on my bedside (the ones that are screaming at the tops of their lungs to be read), the multitude of potentially amazing books I got from SIBA, the silent but growing list of books on my Kindle, I ordered this one from my library.  That is just how inspired I was to read it.

Synopsis:  Kate and Elizabeth were circumstantial friends.  Their kids played together, they were neighbors, and found in each other a kindred spirit without really knowing too much about each other's background.  When Elizabeth tragically dies in an airplane crash, leaving a husband and three small children behind, it devastates everyone involved.  More perplexing, Elizabeth leaves her journals, kept since she was an adolescent, to Kate, to do with as she wishes.  The move confuses Kate and frustrates Elizabeth's widower...why would she entrust all of her secrets to a circumstantial friend of only a few years?

So Kate takes the trunk full of journals to the beach, where she will be spending the summer with her husband and two kids.  As Kate struggles through her own inner conflicts about her sacrificed career and the soundness of her marriage, she learns about a whole different side to Elizabeth that nobody knew.  Family tragedy, an unhappy childhood, and Elizabeth's gifted talent as an artist, her true thoughts on motherhood and sacrifice...all topics suppressed and hidden from those who knew her.

In a story about love, friendship, motherhood, and marriage in a fraught post-9/11 world, Bernier has crafted a thoughtful, moving novel that sure to affect any woman who reads it, young or old.

My thoughts:  This is one of those books that bubble up in your subconscious when you aren't expecting it.  Probably the most troubling concept is the one that hits you square between the eyes at the beginning of the story...the sudden and tragic death of a wife and mother.  The image of a husband now raising three young children on his own.  I wonder what would happen if something happened to me?

But that is just the starting point of this provocative plot.  Do I allow my friends to get close, or is it just easier to be who they want you to be?  Would my husband or friends still love me if they knew all the dark stuff?  How do I really feel about things?  Then there's the woman's age-old dilemma of sacrificing work, passion and career to raise a family.  Or the panic that grips your soul at times when you know you cannot protect your loved ones from the horrors in the world, the diseases, the terrorists, the drunk driver, from loss, from grief.  

I love books that make you think.  Once in a great while you stumble across one that stops you in your tracks (I had a similar reaction to "What Alice Forgot" last year.)  It really makes you check yourself. 

The setting of this book...a small island accessible only by boat...was a nice touch.  It also offered the perfect backdrop for Kate to deal with her own issues, and the disquieting discoveries in Elizabeth's diaries.  

Don't be fooled to think that just because you see sand on the cover that this is an easy chick-lit beach read.  It is a deep and touching read that you won't ever forget.

4.5 out of 5 stars

    

18 comments:

Julie P. said...

This book resonated with me like few books I've ever read. I absolutely treasured it. I even picked it for book club. Unfortunately, my group had very mixed feelings about it.

Literate Housewife said...

I have had this sitting on my shelf since June. I really need to pick it up and now's the time. I'm only going to read my own books in November and the first half of December.

Beth F said...

I know, right? So glad I inspired you to read this. There are many layers to this book with lots to talk about.

annieb said...

I have the same kind of piles and Kindle backlog that you have, but I am ordering this one from my library today. What's one more, right? Great review.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I really liked this one and agree that "it really makes you check yourself".

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sounds kind of depresssing

Anita said...

I liked this book!! Did you get my message that Nichole Bernier will be in Deland on 11/14? I'm going to her reading/party. Hope you can go.

bermudaonion said...

I've been wanting to read this one ever since Julie reviewed it. It sounds fantastic!

Meg @ write meg! said...

I've heard lots about this one, but I have a feeling it would make me quite sad!

Anna said...

Your review has convinced me I need to read it. Now I just have to find the time!

Carrie K. said...

This one hooked me on audio - and I agree, it definitely had me thinking.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I must, must, must read this one. I've heard so many good things about it, and I love the fact that it is decidedly NOT some easy chick-lit book, because those are the ones that I just have difficulty enjoying. I love the idea of reading journal entries on that secluded beach. Man, it sounds like I really need to not delay anymore. Jumping onto the library site now to put a hold on it!

Jenny said...

I guess I'm the odd one out for this one.. I thought it was just okay!

Alyce said...

Fun to read the mixture of opinions in the comments here. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one at the library.

JoAnn said...

This came up as a possible selection at my book club this morning, and I do want to read it, but you'll be glad to hear we're reading The Bucolic Plague next!

Jenners said...

Oh yes … this is on my list too. Glad it worked for you so much. Now I MUST read it.

Jackie Bailey said...

This sounds like th sort of book that could go either way for me. Does it get overly sentimental?

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I am reading this right now. I am still in the beginning of the book but it does make one think about the what ifs!