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  • The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
  • Written by Nichole Bernier
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  • Written by Nichole Bernier
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The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

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A Novel

Written by Nichole BernierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Nichole Bernier

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: June 05, 2012
Pages: 336 | ISBN: 978-0-307-88781-8
Published by : Broadway Books Crown - Archetype
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. Cover

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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
fiction (15) marriage (8) friendship (8) motherhood (7) secrets (5) death (4)
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Synopsis

Synopsis

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 Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew. 
   The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died. 
   The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content
Nichole Bernier

About Nichole Bernier

Nichole Bernier - The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

Photo © Nina Subin

NICHOLE BERNIER has written for publications including Psychology Today, Salon, Elle, Self, Health, and Men’s Journal. A longtime contributing editor with Conde Nast Traveler, she lives outside Boston with her husband and five children.
Praise

Praise

“Bernier’s excellent storytelling skills will keep you pondering long after the final page.” 
The Washingon Post

“Bernier masterfully eases open the doors that guard our deepest fears and, against a backdrop of a New England beach vacation, sweeps in fresh air and hope.”
Parade

“Thanks to incredibly realistic characters, this smart, bittersweet tale brilliantly captures what it means to be a mom, wife and friend.”
Family Circle

“I loved this bittersweet novel, which manages to be both a compelling mystery and a wise meditation on friendship, marriage and motherhood in an age of great anxiety. Bernier will have you thinking about her characters long after you've turned the final page.”
—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine
 
“A smart, poignant novel about the bittersweet choices women make and the secrets they keep. 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, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers
 
“Nichole Bernier writes as though she were born knowing how to do so.  She understands the fragility of the human heart and also the enduring strength of even imperfect relationships.  The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a gripping book with a delicate, tender core.  You will read on to unravel a mystery but also, to be moved, page after page.”  
—Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
 
“An absorbing, bittersweet novel that examines the vast grey area between protecting and deceiving the ones we love.” 
—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers
 
“Written with exquisite grace, depth, and honesty, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. explores decisions driven by motherhood and marriage. I was transfixed as Kate read the journals she’d inherited from Elizabeth, peeling back the layers of her friend’s life, and in the process grappling with her own choices and terrors. Women have secret lives—sometimes hidden in the corners of our minds, sometimes in dreams unrealized. One mark of friendship is when and whether these nightmares and ambitions can be revealed. This riveting novel fiercely captures this fulcrum of the public and private lives of American mothers.”  
—Randy Susan Meyers, international bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughters 

“Debut novelist Bernier’s thoughtful observations on friendship, identity, motherhood, work, and marriage wrap around the mystery of Elizabeth, whose journal writing enlivens the book and gives readers much to think about. This literary novel should be a favorite of book groups and have broad appeal beyond.”
Library Journal

“Moments of beauty and depth of spirit will appeal to readers interested in secrets revealed.” 
Publishers Weekly

“This exquisite and honest portrait of friendship and motherhood unfurls a suspenseful plot whose jaw-dropping surprise ending is one that readers will be sure to discuss long after the book has been finished...Bernier successfully explores how women manage to balance so much in their everyday life and the complicated emotions (guilt, frustration, fear) that go along with being a working mother...The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is an important read for anyone who dares to ask just how well we really know our friends and neighbors, and what those discoveries mean about us.” 
BookPage
Reader's Guide|Discussion Questions

About the Book

A Reader’s Guide for The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel
By Nichole Bernier
 
The questions and discussion topics below are designed to enhance your reading group’s discussion of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

Discussion Guides

1. Many of the characters in the novel keep substantial secrets from one another for a variety of reasons. Whose do you think is the most damaging, and why?

2. In the year following September 11th, Kate’s fears reached a boiling point where any danger seemed possible, and she was paralyzed by the responsibility of keeping her family safe. Could you relate to this sentiment, and in what ways do you think that has diminished for you and in society at large, more than a decade later?

3. Kate conceals her anxiety because she is afraid it will make her seem less strong and competent. Do you think this fear is still warranted in these times of widespread knowledge about depression and anxiety, or is there still a stigma?

4. Why do you think Elizabeth was so private about her sister, and about her aspirations for meaningful work? Why do you think she never confided in Kate (and others) about how important her work was to her, even though Kate herself was passionate about her work?

5. The epigraph is an excerpt of an essay by Wallace Stegner about his mother, “Letter Much Too Late,” written sixty years after she’d died, when Stegner was 80.

Somehow I should have been able to say how strong and resilient you were, what a patient and abiding and bonding force, the softness that proved in the long run stronger than what it seemed to yield to...You are at once a lasting presence and an unhealed wound.

How does this relate to The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., and do you think it applies to more than one character?

6. Do you think the difference between being a stay-at-home mom or a mother with a career outside the home still creates barriers between women? Do you think if women show too much passion for their work they can be perceived as less motherly? If you have belonged to a playgroup, PTA or other social organization of mothers, have you sensed tensions, stereotypes or expectations based on working status?

7. When Elizabeth is in high school, she concludes, “Smile, and the world likes you more.” Do you think that is true?

8. Elizabeth did not start out as a socially dexterous person likely to be the hub and social glue of a neighborhood mom’s group. At what point (or points) in her life did she make the conscious transition from loner to joiner? Have you ever done something like this?

9. Early in the novel, Kate wonders about what it would be like if she wandered into her husband’s home office some night to read silently while he worked--as they used to, earlier in marriage--instead of retreating to her own spot in the living room. “It was a gift, solitude. But solitude with another person, that was an art.” Do you agree? Do you think this becomes easier or harder after years as a couple?

10. Which of the two women’s storylines were you most interested in reading, and with which did you more closely identify?

11. What was your interpretation of Elizabeth’s feelings for Kate? Of Kate’s for Elizabeth?

12. If someone is shouldering a burden that would cause their family pain, do you think dealing with it silently is the most giving or the most selfish thing? Is it possible to be both at once?

13. What kinds of things do you see--or imagine--people commonly conceal when crafting their public face?

14. Do you believe the most formative developments in your life--professionally and personally--have happened by choice, coincidence, or a combination of both?

15. Do you feel your life is well balanced right now, and why or why not? Do you think those closest to you would be surprised at the way you’d answer that question?


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