Who was Kate’s friend Elizabeth—a capable, cheerful and optimistic mother, or the troubled soul her diaries reveal? Bernier’s debut repetitively probes the enigmatic life of the American wife.
A cloud of regret hangs over this parallel-voiced examination of female roles as Bernier peels back the public faces of her two central characters to reveal anxiety and disappointment. Kate, a pastry chef and mother of two, used to be Elizabeth’s neighbor in Connecticut until moving to Washington, D.C. After Elizabeth is killed in a plane crash, Kate learns that she has been left her friend’s diaries and the request that she start reading them at the beginning. Perhaps they will explain Elizabeth’s fateful decision to fly to California and her involvement with a man named Michael. Reading the journals, Kate learns of Elizabeth’s guilt over her sister’s death; and about her critical mother; her abandoned art career; her mixed feelings about her husband; her efforts to be good enough; her last choices. Kate, gripped by boundless fears for her family, constantly compares her friend’s marriage to her own, which is solid enough but may now be changed by the whole experience.
This nuanced portrait of marriage offers insight alongside somber reflections, but its landscape is obsessively interior and not very eventful.