Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Published by Little, Brown and Company
From the publisher:
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.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is every bit as charming and wonderful as everyone says it is. I put off reading this one for a while because I thought it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype – it seemed like literally EVERYONE loved it – but it turned out that all that hype was for good reason.
Semple does so many things well in this novel. She crafted such flawed, ridiculously real characters in Bernadette, her husband, and all of the secondary characters that are sprinkled throughout the book – the moms at school and her husband’s administrative assistant come to mind most prominently. And Bee is SUCH a charming, sweet girl that I just wanted the best for. She’s crafty, super intelligent, creative, spunky, just an overall awesome kid. And the fierce love and protectiveness she felt for her mother absolutely melted me.
Semple really knows how to structure a book to get the reader fully invested and take them on this incredible journey with the characters. Her set-up to Bernadette’s disappearance took nearly half the book, and throughout that time I grew so attached to these characters, all the while knowing that their worlds were about to implode, and I was both looking forward to that part in the book and fearing it at the same time.
Another thing that I loved about the novel is the incredible sense of place that Semple created with her writing. I have been to Seattle once, and I loved it, and Semple made me want to go back there right now. Even though Bernadette hated Seattle, the ways she described it still held my interest and reminded me of all the things I loved about visiting there. And once the disappearance happens, and Bee and her dad go off in search of Bernadette, the descriptions of where they went to look for her were fantastic. I wanted to go there, too (I won’t tell you where they went!).
The search for Bernadette is kind of like a wild goose chase but was handled perfectly in Semple’s highly capable hands. I couldn’t stop listening as Bee and her dad got closer and closer to figuring out what happened to her mom. There were some major surprises toward the end and I was truly satisfied by the time it was over.
I listened to the audio of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and it was an excellent choice. Lots of the story is told through emails and other nontraditional forms of communication, but somehow the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, handled the whole thing flawlessly. It wasn’t difficult at all for me to follow what was happening, who was speaking, etc. – it was just perfect.
This book really is as wonderful as everyone is saying. I absolutely loved it.