where’d you go, bernadette

After seeing this one land on several best-of lists and reading numerous positive reviews, I decided to add Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple to my recent impulsive book haul purchase.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is told in various forms of correspondance—letters, emails, receipts, bills, etc.—gathered by the titular character’s precocious 15-year-old daughter, Bee. After her genius but psychologically troubled mother Bernadette mysteriously vanishes one day shortly before their anticipated trip to Antarctica, Bee investigates by using these materials to find her.

I was highly entertained by Where’d You Go, Bernadette—difficult to put down! I probably could have read this in two sittings (ended up reading it in three). After ever letter I was all like, OMG WHAT is happening here?? I can’t believe she did that! And you just have to read the next letter to see what the hell is up. And then something you totally don’t expect would happen. Some of the accounts were downright hilarious in their absurdity—especially from neighbor and fellow school-parent Audrey. Although I never felt entirely endeared to Bernadette (I suspect we are supposed to find her cool and quirky rather than maybe psychologically disturbed and misunderstood, as I found her), many scenes between her and Bee that came off as genuine and touching.

The first two-thirds of the book were fast-paced, but when the last third switched to Bee’s narrative (and stopped with the correspondance), it slowed a bit for me. Also, I felt like the letters and emails started becoming repetitive and too explanatory. The book took many twists and turns that I didn’t necessarily see coming, which is always a good thing. The best part, though was definitely the bond between Bee and Bernadette—funny, I believe I started reading this on Mother’s Day. I had no idea how auspicious the timing was, ha!

The characters are outrageous satirical takes on big-city elitist entitlement, Montessori-type parents, technology-savvy über-successful brainiacs, and more. Much of the book requires a huge serving of suspension of disbelief. But so what! It’s fun, entertaining fiction. Great for a quick summer read!

**NOTE: I read this for the Bout of Books 7.0 read-a-thon. 🙂

Read from May 11 to 13, 2013.

4 thoughts on “where’d you go, bernadette

  1. I can’t count anymore how many times I’ve raved about this book 🙂 But I agree with you – the last third became a bit slower and in some ways didn’t live up to the hilarious beginning. Antarctica saved it for me personally because I love snowy/icy settings, but I can see how many people would be more disappointed.

    But all the characters – the quirk! It’s like Arrested Development in a book form. I LOVED Audrey! 😀

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