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Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Posted: by Emma on May 22, 2014

Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

The one word I would use to describe this book would be: quirky. The next words I would use: refreshing, funny, unique, witty, and amazing. This story, of a mother who has gone missing, is told from the perspective of Bee - a smart as a whip teenage girl that hails from Seattle. Bee dreams of attending the same prestigious boarding school that her brilliant mother once attended, and works hard at school to achieve this goal. She is told by her parents that if she excels in her private school classes, she can have anything she wants...and what she wants is a trip to Antarctica with the whole family. The trouble is that her father is a workaholic Microsoft exec. and her mother is...well, her mother, is hard to describe. Bernadette Fox is an eccentric. A once famous architect, she is now a recluse who spends her time in a trailer in the backyard of their crumbling down mansion. She avoids social interaction at all costs, but loves her daughter more than anything. She is a sore spot for many of the uppity Seattle moms and her neighbours alike, as she does not participate in any of the school activities and refuses to weed her garden. Both parents agree to the trip, but before they leave for their cruise to Antarctica, Bernadette suddenly disappears.  It is now up to Bee to find her.

This book was hard to put down. Told through Bee's witty narrative, but also through a series of letters, articles, transcripts, emails, and doctor's reports, Bee (and the reader) get to know the real Bernadette. The piecemeal structure of the book gives the reader multiple points of view which provides a wider picture of the whole plot. The novel is engaging, a quick read, yet substantial. Reading of one family’s struggle with success, failure and everything in between, is relatable. Bernadette's biting social commentary is spot-on (and hilarious). This book made me laugh out loud at times but was also heartbreakingly sad. To me, a book that makes you laugh and cry, is a sign of a good book. Would make for a perfect summer read!

(Trivia Tidbit: The author, Maria Semple, was a writer for the show Arrested Development)

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