Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Release Date: August 2012
Pages: 326 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Amazon)
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Thoughts on Where'd You Go, Bernadette
After seeing a rave review of this book that Beth (from Bookworm Meets Bookworm) wrote for Sadie Magazine, I was so excited when I spotted the book on the New Arrivals shelf at my library. From the minute I started this book, I knew I was going to be hooked. You know when you read a book that just feels so refreshing and different from anything you've read before? That's what happened to me with Where'd You Go, Bernadette.
The first three quarters of this book is told in epistolary form. Bernadette Fox has disappeared, and now her fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee, is searching for her. You get to see her piecing together the clues through emails, doctors' bills, school correspondence, etc. It's all the research that leads up to the last quarter of the book where it switches to Bee's actual journey to find her mother.
Bernadette was an architect who fled to Seattle when her masterpiece completely and utterly failed. She is believed to be a genius, but her heartbreak over the past has caused her to completely pull away from society. She rarely interacts with people, and she hires a virtual assistant in India to help her complete the tasks of her daily life. Her husband, Elgie, works at Microsoft and indulges her strange ways by allowing her to do as she pleases.
Part of the joy of this book is the way you see all the pieces falling into place - culminating in Bernadette's disappearance. From busybodies at Bee's school to Elgie's fear that Bernadette needs an intervention, the satire is rich in this book. I loved how Semple slyly pokes fun at things, and I found myself laughing many times while reading. I thought Bee was a really well-written teenager. She's smart and trying oh so hard to find the most important woman in her life. I loved Semple's focus on mother-daughter relationships, which was absolutely one of my favorite things about this read.
It's a little peculiar at times, but I couldn't put it down! It's not something I would typically gravitate towards, although I do love the cover, so I'm really glad Beth got me interested in it with her review. She did a much better job at highlighting the book's strengths, so I'd definitely encourage you to read her review. All I can say is that I laughed at Semple's wacky characters, but I was also moved by several of the more serious moments in this book. I absolutely adored spending my afternoon with these characters and this search for a missing woman. Who knew disappearances and mysteries could be so funny and entertaining? If you're looking for something a little different, I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.
"My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life."