I’m the first to admit that I am a judge-a-book-by-its-cover kinda gal. I’m also the first to admit that I make snap judgments about books that, as you will see, are often very wrong. I had it in my mind that The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. was a certain type of book that I tend not to like. I wasn’t going to read The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier, but then I saw the blurb from one of my favorite authors from last year, J. Courtney Sullivan:
Bernier will have you thinking about her characters long after you’ve turned the final page.
And I’m only bringing this up because, blurbs! They work! Who knew? What made me stop about this blurb is yes, it is by an author whose writing I adore, but also, that is one of the most important things for me when I’m reading. I want characters that stick around long after I’ve finished reading. I’m willing to overlook a lot of flaws when I’m reading if the author makes me care about the characters.
I would say that this is easily Elizabeth D‘s greatest success. I did care about the characters and I still think about them, weeks after finishing the novel. When Elizabeth suddenly dies in a plane crash, her friend Kate is surprised to learn that she has inherited her friend’s journals instead of Elizabeth’s husband. Dave suspects that Elizabeth was having an affair in the weeks before her death and he is eager to find out the truth. Kate is hesitant to share the journals with him until she’s read them. After all, Elizabeth left the journals to Kate instead of Dave for a reason.
The summary, in all honesty, did not do much for me and, ultimately, the way the “mystery” plays out was a little bit of a let down, or at the very least, unnecessary. This is the kind of book that could have stood alone, with just the amazing characters, without a big reveal at the end. I know that many readers will be moved by the end, but I was much more moved by the rest of Elizabeth’s story than the reason she gave the journals to Kate.
Where Bernier succeeds is making you care about Kate, Elizabeth, and their friendship, even though through the course of reading Elizabeth’s journals, Kate realizes that she did not know her friend nearly as well as she thought. In many ways, Elizabeth D is about perception and relationships, the way we often see what we want to see when it comes to our friends and even our family. It is about the way women judge and are silently judged for the choices we make as mothers, to stay home or not stay home, to give up one dream in favor of another one.
I finished The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D in an afternoon on the beach and there wasn’t really a better way to read this. Last year I read Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan and there is just something perfect about reading a book that takes place on the beach, at the beach. If you’re not a regular reader of the type of book that is usually marketed as women’s fiction, then I recommend both these novels as a “beach read” that you might be interested in.
I received a copy of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier for review as a part of TLC Book Tours. You can read more about this tour here.