Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Digital Audiobook narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on August 14, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Women's Fiction
Length: 324 pages or 9 hours, 35 minutes
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A compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
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.
This books gets an awful lot of hype. I’ve had it on hold for the audiobook at the library for almost a year, so I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people are still reading it. I was excited when this finally became available because I was dying to see what all the hype was about.
I gotta be honest, I didn’t love it?
There were moments that is was alright. I actually didn’t mind Bernadette as a character, and I thought some of her correspondences were interesting. I particularly liked the email from Bernadette to her old professor. But a lot of the rest of the stuff got me really frustrated. I’m one of those readers who doesn’t love too much drama in her books? There were scenes where characters were just angrily going off on on another which I actually found a little stressful.
So all that said – the stuff I didn’t like isn’t the type of thing that will bother most people. The characters are varied and interesting, with secrets and layers and twists in their personalities. Audrey Griffin was a bit of an unexpected character in the mix, and I ended up liking her a little bit more at the end, even though she infuriated me at the beginning. The family dynamic here – in all the families presented – was very messy and uncomfortable, and all the relationships a bit rocky. The characters kept me listening more than anything else, because you needed to know what fresh hell they were going to create next.
This book is written as a narrative by Bea, Bernadette’s daughter, and is intertwined with a bunch of letters, emails, invoices, and other paperwork that she uses as a trail to try and find her mother. The result of her doing this is a bit academically catastrophic for Bea, but it tells a good story and isn’t too interrupting. You get the impression early on that a lot of the voices coming and going will be one-offs, so it’s not too difficult to remember the real who’s who. Additionally, if you’re an audiobook person, I felt that Kathleen Wilhoite did an excellent job in her reading.
And then, after all that, I have to confess: it was a masterful ending. Most of the book felt like a complete mess, but I adored the final chapter.
The setting is immersive and the plot was a page-turner. While I didn’t fall in love with this book the way so many other people did, I can see why it’s so popular, and it’s definitely worth a read. And for those who don’t already know, there’s a film slated for early 2019 starring Cate Blanchette (who I love) so read it now before the movie comes out!