I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of “The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.,” Nichole Bernier’s much anticipated debut novel, which comes out on June 5. The plan was for me to recommend it to a few bookstore owners, assuming I enjoyed it. I never planned to fall in love with all her characters, so deeply that I missed them as soon as the last page was turned.
The book arrived on a Friday, and after admiring its lovely cover I set it aside until that evening. As soon as I started the story, though, I knew I’d have a tough time putting it down. The result? I inhaled it over the weekend.
I was so torn, between finishing and not finishing, between savoring and inhaling… but it was the weekend. So why should I deny myself this not terribly guilty pleasure?
It’s easier to write about the first blush of romance than about a realistic marriage, but Bernier nails it. This is how happily-ever-after looks for imperfect characters trying hard to do their best with their marriages and lives. Best of all, hints propel the story forward; rather than hitting us over the head with plot points, Bernier has built a trail of breadcrumbs, dropped in a seemingly casual progression to lead us toward the only logical conclusion. And that’s the hardest part of writing well; it requires the author to maintain a fresh perspective about how much information is just enough, which is usually hard to come by after hundreds of readings and thousands of edits.
The writing and word choices are careful and precise but never distract from the story, which flows from a George Washington Bridge beginning to a quiet backyard end. In between, the characters don’t get any of the easy outs that are available only in fiction and never in real life.
I wish I could inhale it again, from scratch, this weekend. Instead I’ll recommend Elizabeth D. to anyone who is looking for a summer read of well-written literary fiction that includes a touch of real spice. Add it to your wishlist… this will be a great addition to any library, rain or shine.