Where’d You Go, Bernadette

“People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” –Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple

(3.90 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Humor / Mystery

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: August 14, 2012, Back Bay Books

Pages: 326 (Paperback)


Just because it’s complicated, just because you think you can’t ever know everything about another person, it doesn’t mean you can’t try.

Trust is not an easy thing for an adult. For kids, it’s much, much easier, and that makes me nostalgic for the days when the most I had to worry about was beating my cousin to the mixing bowl after my aunt made a cake. If only “adulting” was that easy.

Bernadette Fox knows exactly what I’m talking about. The social pressures, the parental pressures, the marital pressures, ugh! The pressure of it all! I don’t blame her for developing a few cracks in her foundation. I think we all have a few more than we care to admit to anyone else. But this book is about Bernadette’s cracks, so let’s read the blurb…

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces–which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.

For the past twenty years I’ve been in training for overwintering at the South Pole! I knew I was up to something.

OK, solid confession coming up… I have had this book on my shelves and on my TBR for years a long time now. And although I have had the best intentions toward this book and its very talented author, it only jumped to the top of the list because the movie just recently hit theaters. Hey, every book selection has to have a trigger, right?

Anyway, I finally shuffled through my paperbacks bookshelf and fished this little gem out from behind China Rich Girlfriend, Night Circus, Ready Player One, and A Man Called Ove – all of which are waiting patiently for me to crack their covers as well. But whether it was perfect timing for the movie debut, or just perfect timing in my life, Bernadette gave me everything I needed and a lot of what I never expected.

I wished I’d never made the connection about Dad being a gigantic girl, because once you realize something like that, it’s hard to go back.

When authors try to write humor into a novel, it doesn’t always hit the mark. Sometimes it’s a little stiff, sometimes it’s a little forced (that’s what she said! Sorry, couldn’t help it). But the way that Maria Semple writes Bernadette, she’s hilarious even when she’s not trying to be. Especially when she’s not trying to be! Her writing is smart and not fussy. I’m normally a relatively slow reader, but I found myself racing through these pages as if the story would get away from me if I stopped reading.

And while Bernadette is the focus, everyone around her is so fleshed out and defined, it’s like you really know these people. Audrey is that one intense PTA member. Bee is your daughter’s friend who dresses weird but has an IQ of 10 gillion. And Elgin is that man that you always wonder about when you pass him on your daily commute – what does he do? where does he go? why is he talking to himself? When all of these personalities come together in this epistolary novel, let’s just say that it’s no mystery that Bernadette wants to escape!

And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.

So, yes, I have plans to make it to the theater to see the movie, although I can’t imagine it could be any better than the one that played in my head as I read this novel – no offense, Ms. Blanchett. After that, maybe there’ll be a trigger for Siddhartha or The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. <Sigh> My poor, poor TBR…

Click to see the movie trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Maria Semple

Maria Keogh Semple is an American novelist and screenwriter. She is the author of This One Is Mine, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and Today Will Be Different. Her television credits include Beverly Hills, 90210, Mad About You, Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan, and Ellen. – MariaSemple.com

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