Saturday, December 29, 2012

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

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
Author: Nichole Bernier
Published: June 5, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 309 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage.

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died.

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

My Thoughts: I was really looking forward to reading this novel. So many people had read it and liked that I couldn't wait to join in and see what was so great about this novel. It has several elements that I like: journal entries (I love when novels have journal/diary entries in them!), a summer at the beach, life in a big city. It had elements that I always enjoy, but the book fell short of my expectations. I felt like there was no real push or drive in the novel to move forward. Kate is a mom of two and questioning her husband on some issues (such as his continuing to smoke, even though she asked him to stop years ago). Throughout this novel, she constantly wonders if she knows her husband, if he was faithful to her, if he honors her wishes. However, all she does is question with no real answers ever given. I felt like we were building up to this huge showdown between the two of them, where she doesn't know who he is and he tells her that he hates her being so nosy and absorbed in those journals. But, that never happened. The end of the book was a little odd to me, because you aren't sure how their marriage will survive or if Kate can get over her constant worrying. Bernier just kind of drops it and walks away, leaving me as a reader feel very empty at the end of the novel, like, "what was the point in reading that."

The journal entries were great and helped us to understand Elizabeth more, but they were placed in the story so awkwardly it was hard to tell if the entries were meant to let us know about Elizabeth or prove that what Kate is feeling in her life right now is vindicated. They were just stuck in the middle of chapters so awkwardly, like when you try on a shoe that's half a size too small for you. You just keep on shoving your foot into the shoe, even though you know that these shoes will never work for you. I think that if Bernier had alternated chapters with Kate's current life and Elizabeth's journals, it would have helped the story immensely. This is Nichole Bernier's first novel, so I'm hesitant to read her next one. I did enjoy her writing style, so I'm hoping her storytelling matures over time.

1 comment:

  1. Aww it sucks that you didn't like this one more especially since it was one that you were really looking forward too. I hate when that happens.
    I was contemplating putting this on my wishlist but I think I might just pass on it. Great review :)
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages