A few days ago I finished reading, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. I couldn’t put it down for the last 100 pages or so. If you are looking for a lighthearted but engrossing book, I would highly recommend it. It is funny and touching, engaging and witty. You will quickly get sucked up into the world of Bernadette and not want it to end.
I won’t give too much away, but in case you haven’t read the book, here’s a brief summary.
Bernadette Fox is an opinionated, former architect who has a bit of a problem. While her husband spends his days and nights working tirelessly at Microsoft, she utilizes a personal assistant in India to handle her day-to-day life so she rarely has to interact with other human beings. The only person she enjoys is her daughter, Bee, a brilliant 15-year-old who attends a private school near their home. When Bee aces her report card, she claims her promised reward—a trip to Antartica with her parents. Bernadette seems to be taking it well, and boxes and boxes of supplies begin arriving at their home in preparation, until she disappears. The book unfolds as Bee compiles various emails, messages, and other files to figure out where her mother has gone.
The book is written in a very interesting style, with parts told from the perspective of Bernadette, her daughter, Bee, the husband’s admin, Soo-Lin, and Bernadette’s neighbor/arch enemy, Audrey. It took a little bit to get into it because of this unique style, but after a short while, it started to make a lot of sense and made for an interesting read. The style lends itself well to showcase how different people can have very different perspectives on a situation or person, primarily Bernadette in this case. It also allows for a ton of wit to shine through. Maria has laced the book with personality and humor at every turn. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at a few parts.
In general, the world that Maria Semple has created for the book is rich and vibrant. Bernadette is quite eccentric and yet charismatic. I couldn’t help but love her, despite her reclusive and highly neurotic tendencies. I appreciated the well-roundedness of the characters. Though Bee is a brilliant child, she is still down-to-earth. She loves to help out the younger students at her school to keep from getting bored. Audrey, Bernadette’s neighbor and mother to Bee’s classmate, Kyle, is delusional and high-strung. I love Audrey’s character arc at the end of the book. It totally took me by surprise. Elgie, Bernadette’s husband, is what one would call the quintessential tech-nerd work-a-holic. The book provides some funny commentary on Seattle in general and Microsoft more specifically.
P.S. I’d love to know if you have read any good books lately. Let me know in the comments.