Have you ever noticed that some friendships require work? You really like her, but sometimes your smile seems fixed, because she’s just so complicated. Her world has so many hills and valleys. Fine, yours does, too, but they’re yours, after all, and her issues remind you of the times you didn’t quite make it all the way to the top and over. Or the days when the valleys felt as if they extended for hundreds of miles.
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier isn’t a fun book. As Kate reads Elizabeth’s journals, she works through her own issues in this character-driven fiction. There’s little fluff, few hoots of laughter—and those only from moments when I could say, oh, yeah, been there. You know, the embarrassed hiccup that morphs into a laugh and then finds itself stifled by a hand covering the open lips?
That’s what the author has done here: forced me, the reader, to contrast the characters’ experiences with my own. To dig a little deeper into motivations. When Kate examines truth—how much Elizabeth hid about herself and how much she, Kate, has also hidden and misunderstood—I remember bits and pieces of my own history. And I consider larger issues of truth and lies, of comfort and remorse, of the known and the unknowable.
The thing is, our life needs both the easy, relaxed friendships and the hard-earned ones, the stories that we read with laughter and sighs and the ones that make us stop and think, ones we set aside momentarily as we wrestle with the emotions they evoke. Nichole has done a fine job of creating characters worth knowing—fully developed and rich.
Yes, the Kindle version is pricey. The thing is, I bought the book because I read a blog post by Nichole and wanted to know her. In recent months, I’ve clicked Buy on so many freebies and under-three-dollar bargains that have barely kept my interest through chapter three. Books that vanished under the Delete key. And it’s been a very long time since I’ve bothered to review a book.
But this one is worth the time to read and to critique. This author has crafted hard-to-love characters who have crept in and found their place as friends. Friends who’ll stick around in memory as they challenge me to deeper, better, more honest relationships. And isn’t that the best one can say about a book, any book?
I’d love to talk books with you. If you’ve read others that stimulated the responses I’ve mentioned, books that you remember long after you’ve finished reading them, with characters who have forced you to dig a little deeper, please leave a comment. Next week, I’ll pick one commenter to receive a free copy of Nicole’s book. (Kindle preferred so I won’t have to foot the shipping cost!) Yes, readers, a freebie. Aren’t I sweet?
(You may wonder why I’m giving away a book from an author I don’t even know. Well, here’s my rationale. Nichole writes high-caliber women’s fiction. That’s my writing goal. So, if you like Nichole’s, I may be able to entice you to buy mine when it’s available. See, sneaky as opposed to sweet. A method to my generosity. I mentioned honesty and transparency in this post, didn’t I?)