The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read excerpt* *Different edition

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

by
3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  3,124 ratings  ·  689 reviews
Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

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 Elizab...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Broadway Books (first published June 5th 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Randy
Nichole Bernier reminds one (in finely-wrought, clear, solid, turn-the-page prose) that in motherhood, in friendship, in marriage, there are no easy answers. None of us have one side--we are instead faceted prisms, showing a side here, a side there--and when we are lucky, we find people who we can show almost every version of ourselves. Bernier catches the rarity of those moments--and explores a grief rarely looked at; the grief of losing a friend. Wonderful book that I highly recommend.
Eric Kibler
There are different kinds of books. There are the "reads", the ones that whisk you along on an entertaining ride. There are informative non-fiction books. There are books of opinion and personal revelation. There are Great Books, written decades, even centuries ago, but which people still read, because they're original communications about important things. The Great Books will always be discussed.

There's a newer type of book which means to usurp the function of the Great Book: the Book Club Boo...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
I admit it: I am a journal junkie. Any time notes or diaries appear in novels, I’m hooked. They offer a depth of characterization – a window into the private parts of the soul – that just makes for good reading. So, yes, I enjoyed the epistolary aspects of this novel (journals are essentially letters to self, right?).

Best friend Kate is entrusted with Elizabeth’s journals as part of the conditions of Elizabeth’s will. The story made me wonder: what would I do if my best friend died, entrusting...more
Jo Ann
Although I read this book before attending Booktopia in Manchester, Vermont this past weekend, I hadn't gotten around to this Goodreads rating. I loved the author, Nichole Bernier, who was present at the weekend, and I appreciate learning about her writing and her journey.
While I enjoyed the journals, and the stories left by Elizabeth to Kate, 2 things stood out for me as life lessons, and very worthy of discussion: One, the intensity involved in grieving the loss of a friend, and two, the fact...more
Melanie Coombes
This is a amazing novel of two women, Kate and Elizabeth. We are introduced to the character of Elizabeth only after her death in a tragic accident. Kate, who was a good friend of Elizabeth, inherits an old truck of journals that have all been written by Elizabeth before her death. These journals contain her deepest secrets, hopes, wishes and regrets.

Tragically, Elizabeth has left behind a husband and three small children. Kate, who tries to be both confident and competent in her role of mother...more
Nancy
Every so often a book is written that strikes a cord and resonates deeply and on many levels. This is definitely one of them.

The two reviews I struggle with the most are of the books that move me and the books I really hated. The latter is difficult because I struggle to write something that negates an author's work. The former is difficult because I lack the words to articulate the emotions evoked. It is the culmination of adjectives, writing style, story, and subject matter that, disaggregated...more
Cherylann
I think I've hit the book jackpot - two books in a row that were five stars. Based on Books on the Nightstand's recommendation, I downloaded The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D to my nook for vacation reading. I absolutely couldn't put this book down. I found myself reading it on my iPhone while at a Vince Gill concert at the Ryman Auditorium (during intermission not the concert), on line for roller coasters at Dollywood, at the breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables, in the car, and pretty much any...more
Robin Black
I had a chance to read an advance copy of this wonderful book and I highly recommend it! It's the story of two women, of the friendship they shared and of the lives they never could share. It's the story of the ways in which we do know and cannot know the people to whom we are closest. Nichole Bernier is an insightful, sensitive, truthful writer - and she also knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat. This book is good company, it is wise, it is at moments funny - in the way the odd daily...more
Ann
This may be *the* book club book of 2012. Well-written, with so many layers. Can't wait to talk about this book with my closest girlfriends.
Lisa
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. was Nichole Bernier's debut novel. As is often the case with debuts, I want to go back and read the author's other books. I hope the thing that's often true isn't for Bernier--that the debut was so much better than the second book.

I guess that's beside the point...

Here are some of my thoughts:

1. I take my friends at what I believe to be their face value. It never occurs to me they might have journal-like secrets. Perhaps that's because my life is an open book....more
Angela Risner
Sometimes I just want a light beach read, something I can escape into without having to think too much about it. Other times, I want something that I think about when I'm not reading it. This is one of those books.

The story is about best friends Kate and Elizabeth. Elizabeth died in a plane crash last year and left her journals,which date back to childhood, to Kate. She said that Kate would know what to do with them after she read them. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth's husband is not thrilled with th...more
Kats
This debut novel had been hailed as "THE book club book of the year", so I was quick off the mark to order it in the week of its publication.

Well, I am glad I read it before suggesting it to my book club because in my opinion there isn't much in the book at all that seems worth discussing to me, or at least you don't need to read a book to stimulate a discussion on the career vs children dilemma for mothers, the work a marital relationship requires and that people are not always 100% honest wit...more
Therese Walsh
This was a beautifully written debut novel by Nichole Bernier. It's not a fast read; it's a thinking-woman's read. It asks you to reflect on your own life and choices, how others might view you, the compromises you've made and continue to make through your days. There are dozens of things I might point to, but here are the two things I loved best about this novel. The details are extremely well attended to; you will feel you are with Kate as she struggles through her crisis of self. And the enti...more
Kathy
One of the many things I loved about this book: it reminds us how much we don't know about about the people in our lives, even those at the center -- close friends, spouses, children, parents. Kate and Elizabeth have been friends through their children for years when Elizabeth dies in a plane accident. This presents the first of many mysteries in the book -- why was Elizabeth on that flight? No one -- including her husband -- seems to know.
In another twist (and this causes strain between Kate a...more
J Clement Wall
This book, about a woman who receives the journals of her dead friend in the aftermath of 9/11, delves into so many big, human questions about the nature of our connections to each other and our ability to ever fully know one another - even the people we love the most. Are the parts of ourselves we don't share any more or less true because we keep them to ourselves? How important is it for us to feel safe, and is that antithetical to feeling truly seen and understood?

This book knocked me on my...more
Ellen
What happens to your journals, the place you share your secret life, if you die suddenly? After Elizabeth’s unexpected death, Kate inherits a trunk of her close friend’s journals and brings them on vacation to read. This is the summer after 9/11, a time of intense re-examination of both national and personal safety. As Kate discovers Elizabeth’s secrets, she questions both their friendship and her own choices and yearnings. This book is tender and compelling. And it made me wonder what I should...more
Angela
I enjoyed this thoroughly, despite having nothing in common with the characters. This isn't so much about Elizabeth's journals as it is about being adaptable, rolling with the changes, and realizing that whatever you get in life is what you have to work with. It's senseless to live in a state of constant anxiety about the evils of the world and how they may or may not be visited upon you.
Angela
I loved this book. The best description of it was written by another author, whom I will quote now:
"This is one of those rare novels that's so real you forget it's written; I literally carried it around with me, and I missed the characters when I was done." - Jenna Blum.

To me, this book is about how, as children, we see our mothers as nothing but mothers. When in reality, mothers are regular people with histories, secrets, and personalities. True adulthood begins when you can recognize this in...more
Debra Martin
What if everything you knew about your best friend was a lie? This is the situation that Kate Spenser finds herself when her best friend, Elizabeth Martin, dies in a tragic plane crash leaving behind a husband and 3 small children. Agonizing over the loss of her friend, Kate is surprised when she receives a letter from Elizabeth's lawyer. Elizabeth has left Kate all of her journals with a simple statement of "Start at the beginning."

The story follows two story lines, Elizabeth's journal entries...more
Britany
2 best friends, Kate and Elizabeth meet at a neighborhood playgroup where they are living the lives of housewives raising their children together. Elizabeth meets a tragic fate and leaves a trunk full of her personal journals to Kate. Kate takes the journals on her vacation with her and starts savoring the writing of her best friend. I really loved the journal entries more than anything else. There were so many hidden layers to Elizabeth that nobody, not even her best friend, knew about. It's al...more
Carolyn
In "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D" author Nichole Bernier asks the big questions: how well do we really know each other and how much of our true selves do we reveal and to whom? She also asks that question that won't seem to go away: can women have it all? The Unfinished Work of the title could refer to many things: the untimely death of Kate's friend Elizabeth, her journals, but also the words of Elizabeth's younger sister on one fateful childhood day that still haunts. The writing in this...more
Read It Forward
I love novels that capture the complexity of friendships and family life, and Nichole Bernier does that beautifully here. She also has a deft way of making you think about the face that we present to the world and how that may be different from our private self. A satisfying read with vivid characters and a through-provoking premise.
Pamela Barrett
When Kate’s friend Elizabeth died she left Kate all of her journals. This came as a disturbing surprise to Elizabeth’s husband Dave, and it put Kate in the uncomfortable position of trying to decide what to do with them; read them, store them, show them to her family or destroy them for the sake of their memories of Elizabeth? Kate knew Elizabeth as the perfect happy mother of 3 children. They met at the neighborhood play group where the mom’s brought their kids and supported each other through...more
Cindi
Following her friend's sudden death in an airplane crash, Kate is surprised, honored and concerned when she learns that Elizabeth added an addendum to her will giving Kate the journals she has written during her life. Unsure what to do with them and upsetting her friend's husband who believes that he should be the one to keep the journals, Kate decides to spend her summer reading of Elizabeth's deepest thoughts on marriage and motherhood and answer questions to the mystery surrounding Elizabeth'...more
Ruth
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is the story of Kate and Elizabeth and Elizabeth's journals. In her will, Elizabeth asked Kate to decide what to do with the journals, and Kate decides that means she has to read them, and spends the whole summer reading years worth of journals, the whole summer learning that her friend was not who she appeared to be. In the process Kate has to take a look at who she is and what she wants from life.

Kate and Elizabeth both spent early adulthood in New York Cit...more
Nicole
I won this book as part of Firstreads Giveaways.

I won this book as part of the First Reads program over on Goodreads. I got super excited about it, but I had to put it off because of a million reasons. Turns out I just wound up with a bunch of sad books to read all at once because I had The Last Lecture at the same time. It still made for a good summer read.

I will admit I cried a little while reading this book. I was read a lot of sad books at the same time, but it was very sad reading about you...more
Virginia Campbell
Author Nichole Bernier touches many levels of emotion in her riveting, revelatory novel, "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.". I read the book all in one fell swoop, and I cried off and on as the "real" Elizabeth was uncovered through her own words. Elizabeth Martin, wife, mother, and reluctant flyer, suddenly decides to take a trip--flying off to partake in a painting workshop over a long weekend. Tragically, her plane crashes soon after takeoff, and Elizabeth is killed, leaving her family and...more
Joan Hanna
This is by far my favorite read of the summer. Bernier has managed to unravel the lives of two women with subtlety and understanding. The burning question throughout the book is not only: Can we have it all? It also asks: Can we actually find a way to be happy with trying to have it all?

But The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. goes even further than that as it explores, in a non-condemning way, not only how women deal with these seemingly impossible questions but how they actually feel about the...more
Erika Robuck
Aug 02, 2012 Erika Robuck rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erika by: http://www.nicholebernier.com/about-the-book/
Set during the summer after the September 11th attacks and in the past by way of a set of journals bequeathed to a woman by her friend, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a story about how much we keep from others and the cost of our secrets.

The novel begins as Kate and her family drive to the home of Dave Martin, the widower of her friend Elizabeth who has recently died in a plane crash. To everyone’s confusion, Elizabeth has left her precious journals she has kept over her entire life to K...more
Linda
I anxiously awaited the release of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier. I was excited to read it, but unfortunately, the book did not live up to my expectations. Frankly, I am confused by the extremely high ratings of this novel.

The idea of the story is incredibly enticing; a good friend dies in an accident and leaves journals dating back to when she was in her teens until the present. It is such an engaging premise, but the "shocking" revelations were weak, at best, and the o...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • A Simple Thing
  • Studio Saint-Ex
  • The Fable of Bing
  • The Shortest Way Home
  • The Search Angel
  • Hour of the Rat (Ellie McEnroe, #2)
  • Life Drawing
  • Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself
  • Glow
  • The Doctor and the Diva
  • The Realm of Last Chances
  • Sea Creatures
  • Murder Below Montparnasse  (Aimee Leduc Investigations #13)
  • The Last Will of Moira Leahy
  • The Wednesday Daughters
  • In Need of a Good Wife
  • Why Can't I Be You
  • The Theory of Opposites
5323364
Nichole Bernier is author of the novel THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D, and has written articles and essays for publications including Psychology Today, Elle, Health, Redbook, The Huffington Post, Salon, The Millions, and Post Road literary magazine. A 14-year contributing editor for Conde Nast Traveler, she was previously on staff as the magazine's golf and ski editor and columnist. She is one...more
More about Nichole Bernier...

Share This Book

“But there are no real accidents, only decisions that feel like accidents, one after another, that take you down a certain road and take on a momentum that can't be reversed.” 5 likes
“You could become paralyzed with worry about what might happen to your family, or if you hadn’t yet had children you could decide not to, as a sort of proactive damage control. Either way, you would be derailing your life voluntarily out of fear that it might become ruined by chance. Or you could pick up and move on. Those were the only choices.” 3 likes
More quotes…