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The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  4,037 Ratings  ·  781 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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Broadway Books (first published June 5th 2012)
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May 07, 2012 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Jo Ann
Apr 17, 2013 Jo Ann rated it really liked it
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
Melanie Coombes
Jun 01, 2012 Melanie Coombes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Jun 28, 2012 Kats rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, print, chick-lit
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
Dec 22, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 26, 2012 Robin Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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.
Jan 24, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Angela Risner
Jun 03, 2012 Angela Risner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Therese Walsh
Jul 03, 2012 Therese Walsh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 09, 2012 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 06, 2013 Linda rated it it was ok
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
May 19, 2012 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 15, 2013 Britany rated it liked it
Shelves: own, buddy-read
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
J Clement Wall
Nov 05, 2012 J Clement Wall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2012 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Debra Martin
Jan 23, 2016 Debra Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2012 Lormac rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What did I think? I thought, "Eh."

Two fairly privileged suburban mothers/wives become friends. One dies and leaves her personal journals to the other. This results in lots and lots of conflicts. The decedent's husband is annoyed about this (conflict #1). The husband of the reader is annoyed that the reader is ignoring him as she reads the journals during their ANNUAL SEVEN WEEK BLOCK ISLAND VACATION (conflict #2)(sorry for the caps, but this is the clue that this family is pretty privileged). T
Jun 27, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane S ☔
Apr 29, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Elizabeth is killed in a freak accident, she leaves her journals to Kate. Kate has not been her friend terribly long but they clicked during mommy baby play groups and became fast friends. This novel leads one to many questions. How well do we really know the people we are close to? Does everyone have a side of themselves that they keep secret? Do people reinvent themselves to fit in either their preconceived notions or of others. How often do we fail to admit the truth either to ourselves ...more
Read It Forward
Jul 05, 2012 Read It Forward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
May 28, 2012 Pamela Barrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 12, 2012 Cindi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
May 15, 2012 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2012 Meaghan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes for this one because the summary just sounds so amazing. I have to admit though that while I had high hopes for this book, the book fell a little flat for me. For some reason I just didn't feel a connection with either of the main characters in the book. It could be because one of the main characters is dead and we are only learning about her through her journal entries. I could see why I wouldn't connect to Elizabeth for this reason but I thought for sure then I would be able t ...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
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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...

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“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.” 6 likes
“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.” 6 likes
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