#499 ~ Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Published by: Little, Brown & Company

Published on: August 14, 2012

Page Count: 336

Genre: Fiction

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.

My Review

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.


  • At 2013.02.12 06:00, Bryan said:

    Whew. I wasn’t sure you were going to say when I saw this come up in my Facebook newsfeed today, because my wife loved this and I was hoping you did too. Glad to see you have good taste too. I picked this one up at the library, when I read on the jacket Semple had been a writer on the TV show Arrested Development. Unfortunately I haven’t read this one yet.

    • At 2013.02.12 22:01, Jennifer said:

      It was such a fun read, Bryan. You need to make time for this one. Repeat after me, “My wife is always right.” 😉

    • At 2013.02.12 06:07, Kelly said:

      Thanks for sharing this review! I can’t wait to read this one, so many glowing reviews out there. I have heard several others say that the ending was the one low point for them as well.

      • At 2013.02.12 22:02, Jennifer said:

        Don’t let the ending stop you. I’m really not sure how the author could have done it much differently. You’ll enjoy all the laughs leading up to it.

      • At 2013.02.12 07:16, Hillary said:

        I have read many reviews of this as well.. I cant wait to read it. Great review!!

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        • At 2013.02.12 22:03, Jennifer said:

          You’ll really enjoy it!

        • At 2013.02.12 07:44, Beth F said:

          I really love this! I liked Semple’s first book but really loved this one.

          • At 2013.02.12 22:05, Jennifer said:

            I thought the humor was so smart. It must have been a fun book to write because of all of the pieces that had to be put together.

          • At 2013.02.12 08:00, rhapsodyinbooks said:

            Everyone has loved this. I don’t know why I am still on the fence, but your review is helping to push me to the read side of the equation!

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            • At 2013.02.12 22:05, Jennifer said:

              Give it a try, Jill. You’ll enjoy the laughs. It reads really quickly until the end.

            • At 2013.02.12 08:58, Jennifer said:

              I h ad such a great time reading this book. It was a laugh out loud delight for this girl 🙂 I’m glad you liked it too

              • At 2013.02.12 22:06, Jennifer said:

                Did you want your own Manjula for a while, too? LOL!

              • At 2013.02.12 09:25, bermudaonion(Kathy) said:

                I listened to this on audio and it was extremely well done – I just loved it. I’m glad to see you did too.

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                • At 2013.02.12 22:06, Jennifer said:

                  It’s good to know that this works well in audio. I bet that helped with the ending as well.

                • At 2013.02.12 09:42, Beth Hoffman said:

                  I have this book on my iPad and am saving it for when I need some good laughs! I’m glad to know that you enjoyed it.

                  • At 2013.02.12 22:07, Jennifer said:

                    You’ll love it, Beth. So much fun.

                  • At 2013.02.12 12:07, Jaime Boler said:

                    Great review! I loved this book.

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                    • At 2013.02.12 22:07, Jennifer said:

                      It’s always nice to run across a straight up fun novel from time to time. What a pleasure.

                    • At 2013.02.12 13:23, Sandy said:

                      I have this loaded on my iPod, possibly up next if the mood strikes me.

                      • At 2013.02.12 22:08, Jennifer said:

                        Kathy really enjoyed the audio, so it sounds like you’re in for a double treat.

                      • At 2013.02.12 21:48, Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said:

                        I must try this one soon! 🙂

                        • At 2013.02.12 22:11, Jennifer said:

                          You’re in for a treat. 🙂

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