Nichole Bernier's debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., has managed to get me thinking. Elizabeth, a mother of three children, dies in a tragic plane crash. She leaves behind journals dating back to her childhood. Her husband passes them on to a girlfriend, Kate, as Elizabeth's last wishes indicate. Kate sets about reading through each journal, surprised by what she finds out about Elizabeth.
The two met as mothers and had not known each other in their youth. Kate always felt as though Elizabeth seemed to be a capable mother - someone who enjoyed raising her children. What Kate finds is a different person. She sees Elizabeth's questions about what to do with her life, her concern about her skills as a parent. Elizabeth begins to wonder if the Kate she thought she knew existed.
Journals bring to light an entirely new aspect to this friend. As a journal writer myself (more in my youth and early adulthood) I wonder what my children will think if they ever read what I wrote. A friend of mine always jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) made me promise to take care of her journals if something ever happened to her. If I ever inherited her journals would I feel compelled to read them? And if I did, would I discover a little known side to her? Even though I feel as though I know her, it brings up the question of whether you can ever really know someone.
What Kate discovers in Elizabeth's journal is a woman who struggled with depression, who had a childhood that wasn't happy or easy, whose husband didn't seem to be able to handle the tough times. This isn't at all the Elizabeth that Kate knew. What Kate is searching for is the identity of Michael, a man she and Elizabeth's husband Dave, think that Elizabeth was having an affair with. What she finds out changes her final opinion of her friend. While it doesn't make losing her any easier, Kate and Dave are given some closure and see that despite Elizabeth's journals and all they didn't know about her, some of the Elizabeth they knew really did exist.
This was an intriguing book with so much to think about and talk about. Book clubs should be anxious to read this book that explores themes of friendship, honesty, and what it means to be married. I had a great Mother's Day sitting outside in the sunshine devouring The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.