Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Format: Kindle, 335 pages
Release Date: August 2012
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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I passed Where’d You Go Bernadette in the bookstore for months before I decided to read it. When I finally decided to read it, I had high hopes — not exorbitant high hopes, but high enough to be disappointed. I really wanted to love Where’d You Go, Bernadette as the passages I read in the bookstore intrigued me and made me laugh. About two-thirds of the way the novel fell flat and I was bored.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t ‘high literature’ or destined to be a literary classic, but Semple did weave a tightly woven novel together by using alternative methods. I really enjoyed that the novel is written using email correspondence, letters, FBI documents and an emergency room bill.
Maria Semple’s writing is simple and straightforward and the underlying message is also a simple and straightforward one — losing ones self and finding yourself. Bernadette Fox loses herself after the green house she built is destroyed. She is a brilliant architect and it is agreed that she has an excellent career ahead of her. I read several reviews in which people didn’t like Bernadette, but I did. I found her quite quirky and her use of ‘gnats’ to refer to the other mother’s at Galer Street School is something I would probably do (not sure what that says about me). Even though she doted on her daughter, Bee, I didn’t like that seemed to check out on life, on her career, but that’s where the loosing ones self comes into play.
Elgin, Bernadette’s husband, apparently was meant to be a break out character. He is quiet and quite passive and when he does break out, I still didn’t care for him. Perhaps this is because by the time he breaks out, I was bored with the book. Elgin, like Bernadette, is super smart and talented. He’s works at Microsoft and heads a team of developers and indulges Bernadette in her whims and so-called bad behavior.
The best laugh out loud moment was when Bernadette’s next door neighbor’s house was filled with mud. Audrey insisted that Bernadette do something about her prickly blackberry bushes and as a result of their abatement a landslide occurred.
When the narrations switches from the letters to 15 year-old Bee it bit of a jolt. This is where I found out how much of a brat Bee really is and I didn’t like it, which made me not like her. It also solidified how dysfunctional this cast of characters really is and made me not care for any of them in the end. When Bernadette finally disappears, I could care less if she was found and/or if she was found dead or alive. The first two-thirds of the book are funny, but then it gets stuck in the cold icy waters of Antarctica.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a novel of self discovery and everyone discovers something about themselves as well as each other. So, I guess you could say Semple’s objective was met.