**Giveaway is now closed**
I recently watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which took place during and after the events of September 11, 2001. The movie accessed the post-9/11 fears, sadness and anxiety through the eyes of a young boy. "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D," by Nichole Bernier, also takes place around this time period. Nichole Bernier voices similar feelings through Kate, giving readers the feeling that this period of history happened just yesterday.
After a deadly plane crash (one month prior to the plane crashes on September 11), Kate learns that her friend Elizabeth, one of the fatalities of the crash, left all her journals to her in her will. She brings these journals with her on her family's annual beach vacation, much to the dismay of Elizabeth's husband. While reading them, she learns things about Elizabeth that she never heard about in person. As she tries to fit the Elizabeth of the journals with the friend she thought she knew so well, she learns about herself, and her roles as wife and mother, in the process.
Nichole Bernier has produced a powerful debut novel. It is subtle enough not to hit readers over the head, but it packs a pretty punch. Through Kate and Elizabeth, she expresses worries and fears that most women have felt at one point in their life. A word that comes up a lot is "paralyzed." As a mother of kids close in age to the kids in this story, I could relate even more...especially to how Kate was feeling. Most things are out of our control and Nichole did a great job of expressing this notion and sharing the emotions and anxieties that go along with it through Kate's point of view. While it sounded like Elizabeth had a rough life, I had a harder time accessing her emotions because a lot of her journal entries were just summarized, as if they were part of a montage scene in a movie. She also had a stoic feel to her journals, even when she was experiencing an intense hardship. Her journal was definitely interesting, but the fact that parts were deliberately left out made me as clueless a Kate must have felt at times. Also, the journal slipped into dialogue, which is something I'd prefer journals not to do. However, it wasn't as much as I've read in journals from other novels. I liked that Nichole addressed the tug of war between being a working mother or staying at home to raise the kids. The thoughts expressed on this topic were close to how I've felt at times, but in a different direction.
I really liked the use of detail throughout the story. Elizabeth may be the artist in the story, but Nichole Bernier paints a vivid picture of a sleepy New England beach town in the middle of the summer. Each descriptive word was like a brush stroke on the canvas of my mind. I could easily picture every place the women have been, and not just during the beach scenes. Adding to this mix was that the dialogue was genuine and the children actually sounded like children. The only thing I wouldn't have minded less of was the psychobabble. Sometimes there was too much "wordiness" to muddle through and I'd have to read paragraphs several times to understand what was being said. It felt like reading a psychological journal during those times.
Overall, "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D" was beautifully written and incredibly heartfelt. I wanted to drink all of it in at one sitting, but lacked the time to do so. However, I looked forward to the times when I'd have a break to catch up with more of the story. It was intriguing and unforgettable.
Thanks to Random House for the book in exchange for an honest review, as well as a give away copy for a lucky reader anywhere in the world!
How to win "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D":
Since I was able to relate to this story a lot....and it's still music month...please share a song that really speaks to you, or that you can relate to a lot. (One entry per person.) Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win.
Giveaway ends July 29th at midnight EST
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