Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Whered You Go Bernadette

Rating: 3.5 Stars ★★★☆☆

The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, “What’s most important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.” You’ll notice that wasn’t even the question.

Plot

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.

Review

This book is written as a series of documents, from emails, notes to faxes, each telling the story about what happened before and after Bernadette Fox disappeared. At first, she seems like just another housewife that does not fit in with the eversmiling other housewifes who focus on how their geranias look. Bernadette doesn’t care about her geranias, or about volunteering at Bee’s school. Or about the other mothers.

But over time, you realize that Bernadette has serious mental issues that everyone around her sort of ignores.

But the problem with the Xanac and the hundreds of other pills I had squirreled away was this: they were currently jumbled together in a Ziploc bag.

The book is really funny, the characters quirky and I really enjoyed it, but I had some trouble with the depiction of Bernadette’s illness. The book basically tells us that everything will be all right once she works as an architect again. All her paranoia, agoraphobia, depression it will all be gone.

Aside from that, it’s a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly the characters. Bee’s obsession with her mother, her thoroughness in collecting all these documents and searching for her. Bernadette’s quirkiness. Both their irreverence when it comes to their neighbours, it was fun.

“You want to know the coolest part?” Mom chimed in. “There isn’t assigned seating at the dinning room, and they have tables for four. That means the three of us can sit down and if we pile the extra chair with our gloves and hats, nobody can sit with us!”
Dad and I looked a each other, like, Is she joking?
“And penguins,” Mom quickly added. “I’m wildly excited about all those penguins.”

Conclusion

A fun, humorous novel with lots of quirky characters.

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