Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier
Published by Crown Publishing ISBN 9780307887801
Hardcover $24, 309 pages

A beautiful story about how well you think you know your friends. Kate moved away from her best friend Elizabeth a few years ago. When Elizabeth dies tragically in a plane crash, she leaves her journals to Kate, with no instructions on what to do with them. Elizabeth's husband is uneasy about this, he thinks he should have the journals.

Kate discovers that Elizabeth has journals back to her teen years. She begins reading at the beginning, and is shocked to discover many things she didn't know about Elizabeth. She never knew Elizabeth had a younger sister who died as a child. Her look into Elizabeth's life reveals an entirely different woman than Kate knew. I liked the author's message that we really don't know the people we think are closest to us. Everyone keeps secrets, and has hidden feelings that are kept from friends, and yes, even a spouse.

We get to read some of the journal entries, and through them, we get to know Elizabeth.  She not only hid her feelings, she was also hiding the real reason that she was taking that fateful trip. Kate is determined to get to the truth, but once she finds it, should she share it with Elizabeth's husband? What if Elizabeth was having an affair? There was an interior life that Elizabeth led about which Kate had no idea. She was Elizabeth's best friend and she feels that maybe she failed her friend.

Kate is also on her own journey. She was a successful pastry chef, winning a James Beard Award. She and her husband have two young children, and Kate has an amazing offer to work for a new restaurant. She is torn between her passion for her work and her love for her family. It's a tough decision women face and I think that many women will really relate to Kate's dilemma.

The characters in this novel got under my skin, and the conceit of using Elizabeth's journals to get to know her character is an effective, emotional one. The relationship between Kate and her husband was well done too, it was believable, and you felt like they could be your neighbors. This beautiful story will make you think about your life, your friends, and your marriage.

rating 4 of 5

I posted about The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. in a Weekend Cooking post here.

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