Published by: Little, Brown & Company
Published on: August 14, 2012
Page Count: 336
My Reading Format: Hardcover purchased with my #RH300K gift card
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Summary 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.
Bee Fox is bright and well-meaning but, being a teen, she worked hard to master the art of parental manipulation and saw the world as something that revolved around her. In these ways she is a typical teenager. What makes the situation extraordinary is that she is living with a mother who in comparison makes teenage self-absorption seem as like the height of altruism. So, when Bee demands that her parents follow through on a family trip to Antartica in exchange for her scholastic achievements, her desire comes into direct conflict with eccentric Bernadette’s agoraphobia. Thus begins the what eventually becomes Bee’s search for her mother.
I had heard such good things about Where’d You Go, Bernadette that I thought it would make for a wonderful book to read during the Thankfully Reading read-a-thon hosted by Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves. It very much was. Comprised of a chronological listing of documentation related to her mother’s disappearance, Bee mines them for clues that would lead her to her mother. It contains copies of emails with Manjula Kapoor, an online assistant living in India, documents from the FBI, bills, correspondence with a psychiatrist and Bee’s astute notes. Due to the nature of the documentation and the eccentricities of Bernadette, this book was quick paced and hilarious almost throughout. My single complaint about the book was the way the sharp change in pacing at the ending. While I see that it made structural sense as Bee’s research turned into field work at that point, as a reader the move into straight, less humorous prose at the end was jarring.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette makes very interesting observations on living with or near a person with frustrated artistic vision. Anyone who has ever had issues with neighbors will appreciate how easily even the smallest of disagreements can get out of hand. It was also an interesting look at the mother/daughter dynamic. While there’s much to think about while reading Maria Semple’s second novel, it is equally pleasurable to sit down with it and laugh as it goes along. As who doesn’t live with Bernadette, the reader can simply enjoy her antics. They will make you happy to be alive and might tempt you to hire your own personal Manjula. Despite the slower speed of the ending, Maria Semple’s clever writing will entertain and delight you.