Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

bernadetteThis has been on the edges of my awareness for a while, as the author has written for Arrested Development and when I read that in several reviews I knew I had to read this. I loved it! One of those books I kept finding time to read, and blew through it pretty quickly. It was so funny! And, had quirky that the book I just read a few days ago (Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore) had someone who worked at Google and lots about that, and this one has someone who works at Microsoft and lots about that?

This book is made up of emails and memos, but also some straight connecting narrative.  Bernadette and Elgie are married and their daughter Bee is a brilliant 8th grader. Elgie is a brilliant Microsoft guy, Bernadette was once a brilliant architect (MacArthur Genius Grant brilliant), and so pretty much everyone in this book is smarter than you. Except possibly Audrey and Soo-Yin, the awful nasty parents of some of Bee’s classmates. So many wonderful characters! Everyone lives in Seattle, which Bernadette hates. And her commentary on Seattle and the people is hilarious. Really, Bernadette is simply hilarious. She’s pretty much agoraphobic. Well, sort of. She doesn’t like to leave her property and has outsourced most aspects of her life to a virtual assistant in India. No other adults like Bernadette and some of them seem to downright have it in for her.  Fortunately Bee loves and adores her and the two have a great time together.  Bernadette loves Bee so much that when Bee asks for a trip to Antarctica, how can she refuse even though she hates being around other people?

Now, we know from the get-go that Bernadette vanishes right before the trip. How we get to that moment is most of the story, and then the fallout from her disappearance. I loved all the, well not really subplots, and not just incidentals, but the different parts of the story that revealed what the different characters were like. From the prospective parents brunch (hoping to lure “Mercedes Parents”–gag), to the rides on the Microsoft Connector, to the email exchanges between Manjula and Bernadette, all of it combined to make one big multi-faceted story.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to like Bernadette wholeheartedly or think she is flawed, but I am definitely in her camp and found her flaws totally understandable. For all that people tried to blame her for stuff, I felt like it needed pointing out that a lot of other people needed to be blamed for the shit they had done to Bernadette. I felt pretty angry on her behalf!!

But overall, I loved this, thought it was funny, adored Bee, cracked up over every comment about Seattle, was entranced by the South Pole, and thought it was great. Will definitely be reading her first novel now.

One thought on “Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

  1. Pingback: Maria Semple–Where’d You Go Bernadette (2012) « I Just Read About That…

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