Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Published April 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: I purchased this on my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
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  

My Thoughts: 
Snarky, sarcastic, biting commentary on society - just the thing to make this girl laugh. And laugh. And laugh. From the opening sentence ("Galer Street School is a place where compassion, academics and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.") Semple made it clear that she was going after the kind of people who might just think a little too highly of themselves. Semple fills her story with hilarious scenes, vivid imagery, and memorable characters in a format that is utterly unique.

At it's heart, Where'd You Go, Bernadette is  the story of Bernadette and Bee and their deep bond. By normal standards Bernadette is a terrible parent - she almost never leaves the house, she never cooks, and she's a terrible housekeeper. But Bee adores her and in Bee, Bernadette has raised a wonderful young woman, smart, compassionate, and giving. In fact, she's a far better kid than those raised by the self-proclaimed "perfect" parents. Despite her flaws, I liked Bernadette from the beginning and only grew to care more about her as the story evolved.

Three years ago I reviewed Semple's This One is Mine. While I didn't care for (or about) the characters in it, I find a lot to like about the book. Enough to make me say:
"Semple's writing holds great promise; there were frequently passages and pieces that I thought were spot on. Those little gems have me holding out hope that Semple will keep writing and that her next effort will feature more of them."
Where'd You Go, Bernadette is filled with those gems and more than lives up to the promise I saw in that earlier book.  While it was the snark that hooked me, it was the sweetness of the family story that made this novel one I won't forget soon.

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