Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. Review and GIVEAWAY!

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: 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. 

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. 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. 

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

My thoughts: 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, is less than whole.

The protagonist can be Elizabeth or Kate. The truth is that the reader can identify so closely with both women that if she reflects enough on the ideas, the protagonist could be herself. As Kate reads the journals of her recently passed friend, she identifies with much of Elizabeth's emotions, insecurities, and unpredictability of the world around her. At the same time, the journals reflect a different woman than Kate knew. Elizabeth showed a persona she wanted to be known but the real Elizabeth was much more complicated, insecure, wounded, and uncertain. Kate finds that the better she knows Elizabeth through her journals, the more she is compelled to face her own insecurities and secrets. 

One of the things I loved about the book is the way Nichole develops the story. Rather than relying on a shocking and unbelievable story line, she methodically uses the environment to reflect just a piece of emotion without overkill. The contents of the journals are surprising to Kate but the true value is in the way Kate reviews those around her and rethinks the secrets she keeps. 

If I were to use this book for a book club (and it could be used in a book club without offense. One swear word. There's your spoiler. You won't get any more), I might want the members to reflect on the following questions:

1. When was the moment you realized your spouse kept secrets from you? Were they game changing secrets?

2. What secrets do you keep from your husband? What do you fear by keeping them? Write two scenarios of sharing your secrets; worst case and best case.

3. What do you see as your public persona? Why did you choose this one?

4. What is your private persona?

5. Reflecting over the above questions, is it because of lack of trust in others or lack of trust in yourself that you are not honest with the real you?

6. Is motherhood and couplehood all you thought it would be? 

7. Do you feel your life is well balanced right now? When have you felt like you were hanging off the proverbial cliff, debating whether or not to let go?

8. Do you believe in fate, coincidence, choice, or a little of all? 

I could continue in so many different directions but I'm going to make a choice to leave you hanging a little bit. The story is a subtle exploration of friendship, marriage, motherhood, career, and the unpredictabilities of life. It's one to savor rather than consume.

The publisher has kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway! 1 copy for U.S. or Canada address. No P.O. boxes.

Nichole Bernier’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 4th:  Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, June 7th:  Knowing the Difference
Monday, June 11th:  Ashley Loves Books
Wednesday, June 13th:  Regular Rumination
Thursday, June 14th:  Great Imaginations
Monday, June 18th:  Luxury Reading
Wednesday, June 20th:  Colloquium
Thursday, June 21st:  Boarding in my Forties
Monday, June 25th:  Bibliosue
Wednesday, June 27th:  A Musing Reviews
Friday, June 29th:  Broken Teepee
Monday, July 2nd:  Girls Just Reading

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.


Nichole Bernier said...

Nancy, thank you for the thoughtful read, and the eloquent reflection. It's such a pleasure to hear the book resonated with you.

Anonymous said...

Great book club discussion questions - thank for including those!

We appreciate you being a part of he tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.