The Third Novel in Five Days

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tend to like books that present two intertwined narratives and that provide narrative hints that sometimes lead to the conclusion and sometime to the “garden path.” This one does both.

Kate’s friend Elizabeth dies in a plane crash. (I had misheard it as 9/11 crash, but it was a month before.) Elizabeth’s death, plus 9/11, created an anxiety in Kate that she didn’t feel free to share with Chris, her husband, an anxiety that underlies several scenes, some serious and some humerous.

Elizabeth was a journal writer and willed her journals to Kate. Needless to say, Dave, the husband, was not thrilled. Early on we learn that Dave did read the last one and learned that Elizabeth was meeting Michael, not going to the art workshop everyone thought. Resisting the temptation to start at the end, Kate follows Elizabeth’s direction to begin at the beginning; Elizabeth was 12 when she started journalling . Chris resents the time Kate spends with the journals, one among several chinks in their relationship.

The novel explores knowing, but not knowing, one’s close companions. Kate is startled at what she didn’t know about Elizabeth’s early years; she is taken aback by some of the comments Elizabeth makes about Kate, herself.

I found the pacing just right, the shifts between journal and life situations comfortable and clear, the search for answers compelling. And (a rarity) the resolution and insights gained seemed just right.

This is another book I was introduced to at the Wordstock Book Fair. I was intrigued at the author’s writing process: she actually wrote out the whole journal first, as preparation. (It is one thing to know your characters, but to write all those years of journal!) Then she selected the sections worth including. And she selected well, sometimes quoting, sometimes summarizing.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Third Novel in Five Days

  1. You are on a reading roll! Sounds like an interesting story, interestingly told.

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