Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple
I am part of a very small book club (there are only 3 of us) and I’d never heard of this book until it was picked as our next selection. It always feels like an adventure picking up a book without knowing anything about it, and once I started this one, I couldn’t put it down. Here is a description, courtesy of amazon.com:
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.
What I liked about the book:
Almost everything. I loved the way it was written. I loved reading the emails, FBI reports, notes from the school, all of those items helped tell the story in a unique way. It’s amazing how much character development comes through in emails and Bernadette’s neighbor, Audrey Griffin, is a fantastic example of this. I think everyone has an Audrey in their lives, and the best part about this annoying, know-it-all neighbor, is that while she is the character you love to hate, she ultimately becomes the character you love. I couldn’t wait to read this every day, it made me laugh, and in the end, I had tears in my eyes. That’s sounds sappy, but I can’t help it.
What I disliked:
I didn’t like Bernadette. I didn’t like Bernadette’s husband, Elgin. I found them both selfish and unlikable. Their living conditions were appalling and that is something I find personally distasteful, particularly because 1. They were wealthy and 2. They had a daughter with health problems. The fact that they continued to live in such conditions for 15 years is hard to fathom. It bothered me throughout the story because I find nothing redeeming about living in squalor when you have a choice in the matter.
Another small criticism, I thought the ending was a little too hurried. It wrapped up quickly and I wanted more. Perhaps that’s because I liked the book so much and didn’t want it to end, but there were a few loose ends I would have liked to have seen tied up a bit more.
I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars, or I really liked it. It was fun, laugh out loud funny, and extremely engaging. I am full of admiration for this talented writer and how cleverly she weaved her tale.