Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria SempleWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Published: Little Brown and Company (2012), Hardcover, 336pg
Source: Library
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Humor

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.

I read this book because of Jenny! Jenny and Jenny, actually, of Reading the End Podcast. They did a combined review/discussion thing about Where’d You Go, Bernadette in their very first episode1, and ever since then it’s been on my to-read list.

It’s SO GOOD. I liked it so much I accidentally read it all in one night. I love epistolary novels anyway, but I especially love ones that combine multiple forms of communication. Letters, emails, phone messages, etc.: give me all the communication and I will be a happy reader. Bonus points if you surround it with a fantastic story of love and family and art and loss!

Things I loved (besides the letters): the mix of humor and tragedy, Bee’s narration, Bee and Bernadette’s great relationship (although it’s perhaps a little too codependant), Audrey’s redemption subplot, the Antarctica connection, how betrayed I felt by Bernadette’s virtual assistant even though she was really only in the book for, like, three letters.

Also, Seattle! I have never been to Seattle, but everyond on the internet seems to think it’s the mecca of depression, what with the rain and clouds and more rain. So maybe it’s not the best place for someone coping with losing a huge chunk of their life’s work to move to. But it’s a great place to set a book, and I totally want to visit there now.

Read: November 29-30, 2014

Super bonus points for mentioning Xanadu and its greatness!
xanadu gif

  1. which I somehow remembered as “a few months ago,” when actually it’s been over a year. Happy belated podcast anniversary, Jennys!

10 thoughts on “Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple”

  1. I own this book and someday I will read it! And now that I know it gives a shout out to Xanadu? It’s getting places a lot higher on my tbr pile. Excuse me while I go dig up a pair of roller skates and find a starving artist to inspire…

  2. I read to this book and really liked it. Then I listened to it on audio about one year later and absolutely LOVED it. The audio brought me an emotional connection with the book that was missing when I read it. Glad that you’ve found as much enjoyment in this as I have.

  3. I actually loved the Seattle details the most of anything in this book. I need to find more Seattle books because it’s fun reading about my home. I think the last time I read one was Microserfs, read slightly after we moved here and started working at that lovely company.

    1. It IS fun to read books set where you live! I’m always on the hunt for more Anaheim books, though of course I usually end up with Los Angeles/general Southern California more often.

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