The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
By Nichole Bernier
Crown, 2012, $24.00
To Kate, the world is unsteady and uncertain. Touched deeply by the 9/11 attacks, troubled by the daily headlines and freshly wounded by her friend Elizabeth’s death in a plane crash, Kate and her family head to an island rental for seven weeks of respite. Before they leave, Kate receives word that Elizabeth’s personal journals have been left in trust to her, to read and to do with as she sees fit. Elizabeth’s husband, Dave, resents that Elizabeth’s confidences will be read by a friend rather than by him. Shreds of suspicion, about what she might be hiding from her husband, plague Dave. As Kate reads Elizabeth’s entries, deep and unsettling secrets come to light, possibly unknown even to her husband and family, and Kate discovers a friend she never really knew or grievously misunderstood. Elizabeth’s journals are a glimpse into the turmoil of choices made between mothering and career. It’s a story of dreams that dramatically change when two become one in marriage. Allusions to a man named Michael and a question of where Elizabeth was actually going when she stepped aboard that final flight, add a layer of tension and uncertainty. A satisfying resolution allows readers to ponder the depth of married love and self sacrifice.
An important facet of this novel is its consideration of the importance of female friendships. It’s not just about the good we gain from them, though, but also about the work that we must put into friendships in order to keep them strong. Each relationship in life comes with its obligations and commitments, as well as its rewards. Author Nichole Bernier explores the differences in connections between husband and wife and between women friends, each with its own unique value.
A professional magazine writer, Bernier has done a wonderful job with her first foray into fiction. It’s been a long time since I’ve found one of those books that I simply couldn’t put down and read in several sittings. This was one for me. Absorbing and captivating, it held its mystery until the very ending.
When All That’s Left of Me Is Love, A Daughter’s Story of Letting Go
By Linda Campanella
Tate, 2011, $17.99
With a loving heart, Linda Campanella shares the story of the loss of her mom, Nan Sachsse, to brain cancer at the age of 73. Nan died one year and one day after her diagnosis, but this book is about the living she did during that brief time. Campanella sensitively chronicles the family’s commitment to helping Nan live fully and joyfully for whatever length of time she had ahead of her. Family to Nan included a loving husband of 52 years, three daughters and a son, who lived at varying distances from their mom. Nan had many friends and extended family, who also became an important part of her journey. The support of a minister and a hospice team added yet another layer to the experience.
Campanella tells this story through narrative, interspersed with e-mail communications among family and friends. Not specifically meant as a guide, this memoir does indeed offer a wealth of ideas about how to make the best of a difficult time. Little things make a difference. Fresh makeup and lovely earrings do wonders for the spirit. The gift of a calendar, in one instance, became a precious acknowledgment of continuing to look ahead. The family found it was important to maintain old familiar routines as well as add new traditions. The Sachsse “Happy Hour” provided many new memories to hold onto as the family had to let go.
I happened to be reading this book on the second anniversary of my own mom’s death and it gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the good and the tough moments of her lingering illness and final passage. I would also have found this book helpful during that actual timeframe when we cared for my mom. There are little ideas to glean from its pages as well a simple support in knowing how others have faced those same hard times.
The Mom 100 Cookbook, 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket
By Katie Workman
Workman Publishing, 2012, $16.95
This is such an inviting new cookbook. Katie Workman shares 100 recipes that are both mom-friendly and kid-friendly. She touts these as unfussy, reliable recipes for weeknight dinners, packed lunches, potluck family events, bake sales and neighborhood entertaining. Many of the recipes include “Fork in the Road” instructions, meant to help you adapt the same recipe to suit the reluctant, as well as the adventurous eaters in your household, without cooking separate dishes. You follow a recipe until a certain point, the fork in the road, and one meal is now complete but the recipe continues to another point, more interesting and flavorful, for the rest of the family. The book is filled with clever ideas and humorous anecdotes. You’ll make the fertility macaroni and cheese with caution when you read this side story. I was jotting down ingredients I’m missing for the sesame noodles as I read for this review. Chickpea poppers and chocolate covered pretzels are both on my list to try soon. Home grilled pizza was a new idea to me, as well as English muffin breakfast pizzas. Workman shares her egg white secret for yummy clumps of goodness in her granola recipe. Honey ginger soy chicken will garner rave reviews.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Alexandra Fix is the author of ten non-fiction children’s books, including the series Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (heinemann Library). Over the years, she has truly enjoyed being a children’s librarian, registered nurse, freelance writer, mother and grandmother.