Contributing editor/features writer/journalist, Nichole Bernier — inspired by a family friend’s healing following the September 11th attacks — becomes a novelist when The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. debuts on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.
Selected as one of BookPage’s Most Anticipated Debuts of 2012, the novel’s introductory description explains:
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.
Intrigued? Consider the following stellar blurbs and reviews:
“The question of what makes a life, secrets shared and secrets kept, and the complete makeup of a single human being are the cornerstones of Bernier’s introspective debut… Even best friends can withhold shattering secrets, the kind that can forever change the lives of loved ones and make everyone question the fine nuances of what it means to be a parent, a spouse, a friend, a community member, and a resident of this earth for only a finite, unknown amount of time. Bernier’s tale blends bittersweet heartaches with soaring truths in a style reminiscent of Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve.” —Booklist
“An absorbing, bittersweet novel that examines the vast grey area between protecting and deceiving the ones we love.” — Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS
“I loved this bittersweet novel, which manages to be both a compelling mystery and a wise meditation on friendship, marriage and motherhood in an age of great anxiety. Bernier will have you thinking about her characters long after you’ve turned the final page.”
—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of COMMENCEMENT and MAINE
“Nichole Bernier writes as though she were born knowing how to do so. She understands the fragility of the human heart and also the enduring strength of even imperfect relationships. The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D is a gripping book with a delicate, tender core. You will read on to unravel a mystery but also to be moved on page after page.” — Robin Black, author of the story collection IF I LOVED YOU I WOULD TELL YOU THIS
“Written with exquisite grace, depth, and honesty, THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ELIZABETH D explores decisions driven by motherhood and marriage. I was transfixed as Kate read the journals she’d inherited from Elizabeth, peeling back the layers of her friend’s life, and in the process grappling with her own choices and terrors. Women have secret lives—sometimes hidden in the corners of our minds, sometimes in dreams unrealized. One mark of friendship is when and whether these nightmares and ambitions can be revealed. This riveting novel fiercely captures this fulcrum of the public and private lives of American mothers.” -– Randy Susan Meyers, International bestselling author of THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS
“A smart, poignant novel about the bittersweet choices women make and the secrets they keep. This is one of those rare novels that’s so real you forget it’s written; I literally carried it around with me, and I missed the characters when I was done.” —Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS
The Divining Wand has scheduled a visit with Nichole on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 but, for today, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:
Nichole Bernier is author of the novel THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D, and has written for magazines including Elle, Self, Health, and Men’s Journal. A 14-year Contributing Editor for Conde Nast Traveler, she was previously on staff as the magazine’s golf and ski editor, columnist, and television spokesperson. She received her master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and is one of the founders of the literary blog Beyond the Margins. Nichole lives west of Boston with her husband and five children.
And now it’s time to get to know Nichole much better:
Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Failed yogi. Shower thinker. Human zamboni. Happiness seeker.
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. You never know. Because you never really know what makes another person do the things they do. All you can do is give them the benefit of the doubt.
Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Holding your newborn. Solitude with productive thoughts. That sweaty pacing contentment after exercise is done and you feel like you could take out an army. Flipping a perfect crepe. Feeling understood. Watching a Kindergarten basketball game, and seeing that moment of panic when a kid hugs the ball to his chest and flat-out runs down the court.
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Sophie’s Choice. Mad Cow disease. That I won’t wake up from one of my apocalyptic nightmares.
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. A warm uncrowded beach with a good book… I don’t remember the last time I read on a beach.
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Noah. Sometimes I want to build an arc to collect everyone and everything I love and protect them from whatever terrible thing is next down the pike.
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Dedicated inner city teachers. Dick Hoyt, who runs the Boston marathon each year pushing his adult son in a wheelchair. Every parent who treks from a rural village to bring their cleft-palate child to a Smile Train medical outpost they’ve only heard of through rumors. That act of blind faith and love and determination — when so many superstitious people hide their cleft-palate children in back rooms — stops my heart.
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Spoken: “Just a minute.” Written: “tenuous.” I’ve wanted to be able to overuse “balls to the wall,” ever since I learned it refers to the mechanics of fighter-jet throttles, and not something anatomical. But I won’t put it in print knowing my mother will see it and misunderstand.
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I wish I could fly. I used to have vivid dreams of flying when I was a child, and in my dreams I knew exactly how to do it: fierce concentration could make me levitate higher and higher. I’d always be disappointed when I woke up.
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. The greatest risks make the greatest reward. Opening my heart to the spontaneity of a blind date, and giving up my rent controlled NYC apartment to move to Boston and marry him. The decision to have five children, even though I was afraid of what it would do to a solitary person. Going out on a limb day after day for a piece of writing that was not any assignment, not anything that anyone in this world was waiting to see. Then selling it, and being able to hold it as a hardcover.
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
Q. What’s your best quality?
Q. What do you regret most?
A. That I didn’t know my mother-in-law better before she died of multiple sclerosis last year. She was a complex package of fortitude and stubbornness and depression and mystery, and now there’s no opportunity to really understand her. I think that will continue to weigh on me more the older I get.
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. The family of rabbits that live in our yard. My four-year-old adores them and brings them lettuce every evening. They seem to have a pretty wonderful life.
Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. If you’re sitting near me in the library, it’s that I type very loudly. It makes me feel alive.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Olive Kitteridge
Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Reginald von HoobieDoobie, from Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct
Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Amelia Earhart. I’ll call her an athlete because of her sheer strength of will. “Where did you go?”
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. People who don’t wait their turn and think rules don’t apply to them. But when I’m furious at someone who bullies through a four-way stop or cuts in traffic, I remind myself “You just never know” (see motto). Maybe they’re rushing to the hospital.
Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading in a warm patch of sun. Walking the four-mile loop around our local lake carrying my youngest child in a backpack. Making pie. Laughing with my husband. He’s got a great sense of humor.
Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Being the protector of orphaned baby animals at a wildlife preserve. I’d also like to have the job in Mother Nature’s factory that gets to design the color and symmetry of kittens.
Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Kindness, kindness, and kindness.
Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Only one thing? Then chicken korma with bleu cheese and strawberry rhubarb pie. With just enough space between them on the plate to not really be one thing.
Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. They might be different tomorrow, but today: Rikki Lee Jones, We Belong Together. Van Morrison, Whenever God Shines His Light. David Bowie/Queen, Under Pressure. U2, One. Ferron, Ain’t Life a Brook.
Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Crossing to Safety, Gilead, Gift From the Sea, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Bartleby the Scrivener (I know it’s a short story, but still).