Sunday, January 20, 2019

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Length: 354 pages

Published: August 2012

People have been telling me for years that Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is hi-larious. With the upcoming movie, starring Cate Blanchett, to release in March, I thought I'd better get on the ball and read the book before the movie - it's what true bibliophiles do - read then watch. 

The titular character in this adult fiction book suffers from agoraphobia, so when her 8th grade daughter, Bee, asks for a family trip to Antartica as a reward for her perfect grades Bernadette Fox is filled with anxiety. Bernadette initially moved to Seattle, where the story primarily takes place, so that her husband, Elgin Branch, could take a job with Microsoft. This move came after a traumatic professional experience in California that resulted in Bernadette's current condition and abandoning her career in architecture. Add to that several miscarriages and a rocky pregnancy with Bee, Bernadette understandably has some mental and emotional health issues. She doesn't fit into the Seattle community, and for all intents and purposes, has banished herself to their mansion-sized home (that used to be a school for girls - yes, really!) Her interactions with the busy body/helicopter moms (to whom she refers to as "gnats"), especially antagonist Audrey, who is Bernadette's nemesis, finally push her over the edge and she goes missing. More than half the book is Bee on a quest to find her mother. 

The book is written in an epistolary format including emails, letters, and other correspondence. I usually find this a fun format to read because, as a reader, I can be a guilt-free voyeur of the inner thoughts of the characters. However, the way in which this novel was constructed actually added confusion to the plot. It slowed me down, and I almost gave up on it a couple of times. As I stated before, several reading friends told me this book was humorous. I, however, did not find it as amusing as my peers. I actually found it a bit depressing because the protagonist clearly has some issues and her family - especially her daughter, Bee - has paid the price. But this book is not all bad. I did appreciate the resolved conclusion. Semple could have left the audience hanging, but I am glad she did not. I also took satisfaction in two of the women coming together at the end - girl power! (I'll leave it vague so as not to give any spoilers.)  

RecommendationWhere'd You Go, Bernadette is a quick read. It has clearly been enjoyable for many. It is a bestseller, and it's going to be a movie. I'll probably still go see the movie. I just don't think this book was for me. I won't dwell here too long ... on to the next read! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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