Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple

where'd you go bernadetteBernadette 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.

Rating: 4/5

Okay, now I know why my reader-friends were so insistent that I read this book. I GET IT NOW. I was utterly, utterly charmed. Sometimes I can find satire a little too over the top and therefore rather annoying, but here the author got the perfect balance – satirical, yes, over-the-top, certainly, but still, somehow, completely believable.

And yes, a gentle humour pervades the novel, and makes for a wonderful reading experience. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses, and the book covers some rather dark territory – mental breakdowns, disappearing mothers, career crisis, miscarriages, affairs, bitchy neighbours, and an entire smorgasbord of parenting and family issues.

Despite this, the author skilfully takes us through the circumstances of Bernadette’s disappearance and Bee’s journey to find her mom with the perfect balance of heart, heartbreak and humour. I pretty much finished the book in two sittings, which should really tell you everything you need to know.

The ending was a little too tidy, a little too easy – but with this kind of novel, I think most of us want everything to come together perfectly in the end. All in all, highly recommended, especially if you’re looking for something fun but not fluffy.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple

  1. There is something about this novel that repels me. Well, maybe repel is harsh. Does not appeal to me more like. It could be the dark undertones you mentioned and all the family and relationship drama. One day, perhaps.

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  2. Well I sure am glad I read this review – I must confess to supreme shallowness here and say that I was seriously put off by the cover. I mean, what is it? A child’s drawing? An exotic road sign?? Anyway… I’m going to give it a try – your review is, after all, positively glowing! 😀

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