Where'd You Go, Bernadette
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.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Details

TitleWhere'd You Go, Bernadette
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 14th, 2012
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN0316204277
ISBN-139780316204279
Number of pages330 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Humor, Contemporary, Mystery, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Adult, Adult Fiction

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Review

  • Jessica
    May 23, 2012
    Read this for a second time for a new book club, and I loved it just as much as I did the first time.A douche canoe that I (probably shouldn't have) dated for a couple months a few years ago once told me that I didn't like Glee because I didn't understand satire. I'd like to hand him this book and say, "Suck on it, asshat. This is satire."I suppose that's an entirely different story. The point is, I loved this book. It's sharp, witty, heartwarming, and entirely entertaining. Of course, it came f Read this for a second time for a new book club, and I loved it just as much as I did the first time.A douche canoe that I (probably shouldn't have) dated for a couple months a few years ago once told me that I didn't like Glee because I didn't understand satire. I'd like to hand him this book and say, "Suck on it, asshat. This is satire."I suppose that's an entirely different story. The point is, I loved this book. It's sharp, witty, heartwarming, and entirely entertaining. Of course, it came from someone involved with Arrested Development -- should I expect any less?The first three-fourths of this book are told in the form of email correspondence, magazine articles, even doctors' bills purportedly strung together by fifteen-year-old Bee in an attempt to tell her mother Bernadette's story. Bernadette is the quintessential misunderstood genius. In her thirties, she became one of the few female architects to stand out from the crowd and was eventually awarded a MacArthur genius grant. It's when a project particularly near-and-dear to her heart was destroyed that Bernadette's psyche began to fray. She and her husband, Elgie, moved to Seattle when he took a job at Microsoft. Now, they live in an abandoned home for girls and their daughter has overcome a congenital heart condition to succeed brilliantly at a charter school, whose wannabe-upper-crust parental committee resents Bernadette's refusal to take part in the community. Bernadette, for her part, is still struggling to get over the heartbreak of her previous life and has developed an agoraphobia so severe that she has hired a virtual personal assistant to take care of her daily errands from India. As the book begins, Bee is cashing in on the promise her parents made that, if she achieves straight A's, she can have any gift she likes. Her request is for a family trip to Antarctica, a request that sends Bernadette's anxiety skyrocketing. Meanwhile, Bernadette's catty neighbor Audrey is declaring war on Bernadette and her blackberry bushes. Picture the biggest busybody from a Desperate Housewives-type setting, if you can. I don't know specific characters to compare to, but that's what Audrey is: a busybody who erroneously believes that her obnoxious behavior is beneficial to and appreciated by everyone else. She wants to host a bruncheon (I don't know if that's a word, but I'm coining it now) to woo legitimately upper-crust parents to the charter school and Bernadette's blackberry bushes are interfering. To say that Audrey has it out for Bernadette is an understatement, but when the bruncheon ends in catastrophe things begin to spiral out of control for Bernadette. Elgie, concerned that his wife's anxiety and paranoia have become larger than life, attempts to stage an intervention for Bernadette. Unfortunately, Bernadette disappears instead and it's up to Bee to find her.This book pokes fun at the culture of Microsoft and at people who desperately want to be in the next highest social strata without becoming too mean, but where Semple really excels is in her unfolding of Bernadette. There are certainly aspects of the plot that require some suspension of disbelief, but Bernadette is such a great character. She tried keeping it together but at some point, she snapped and has completely folded into herself in anxiety and desperation. She hates Seattle, the parents at Bee's school, her husband's company, everything around her...except Bee. She loves Bee desperately and wants to do anything she can for her daughter. At the same time, she's an artist whose stunted mental health has fried her ability and opportunity to create, which has only made her more anxious and more depressed. What else can I say? This book isn't high-minded literature, but it's not really trying to be. It's a send-up of a wacky, soapish storyline that manages to stay completely engrossing -- I couldn't put it down. And it's touching! It's ultimately about self-acceptance -- finding what makes you happy and learning how to balance that with the expectations of others that you can't shake off. And there's this quote, which I loved: "This is why you must love life: one day you're offering up your social security number to the Russian Mafia; two weeks later you're using the word calve as a verb."I dare say that if you can't appreciate it, then maybe you just don't get satire ;)(I kid, I kid.)
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  • Patrick
    March 31, 2016
    Just found this book in my luggage recently, I read it while traveling a while back, and never got around to recording it here. (This happens a lot...)I'm hesitant to assign a star rating here (more hesitant than usual) Not only did I read this months ago, but the genre isn't one that I spend a lot of time reading.But where *do* I rank it? I know it didn't anger or disappoint me in any way (I'd remember that) but neither did I feel the need to rush on here and review it, or force it on any of my Just found this book in my luggage recently, I read it while traveling a while back, and never got around to recording it here. (This happens a lot...)I'm hesitant to assign a star rating here (more hesitant than usual) Not only did I read this months ago, but the genre isn't one that I spend a lot of time reading.But where *do* I rank it? I know it didn't anger or disappoint me in any way (I'd remember that) but neither did I feel the need to rush on here and review it, or force it on any of my friends. (I know a book is genuinely good if I feel the need to share it.) I did enjoy it, and that's saying something, given that it's outside my regular reading habits and I don't think I'm the target audience for the book. It's solidly written, clever and witty in turns, slightly absurdist in its humor, and comes to good resolution.So.... four stars? Sure. Whatever. Let's call it four. Whatever that means.If you're the sort of person who only reads fantasy (as I know some of my readers are) be aware this doesn't have any of that in there. Also, female main character here. So if you're one of those dudes who is terrified of catching cooties from a book, look out. There's feelings and shit in this book, and a girl looking for her mother. Personally, I liked it. If the thought of that makes your nuts retreat protectively up into your body, you might want to think of this as less than four stars. (And possibly consider getting some therapy to work out your unresolved issues.) If you're someone who enjoys more personal narratives. YA stuff. Or what's typically considered "Chick Lit" (Though I hate that term.) odds are you'll like this more than four stars worth. Parenthetically yours, pat
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  • Travis Fortney
    June 30, 2012
    What we have here is a satirical epistolary novel about a bunch of whiny one percenters in Seattle. Ms. Semple is sending up Seattle elites, which here seem to be typified by Bernadette's husband Elgie, a granola eating, public transport using, bike riding, Microsoft employee with a genius IQ. She also sets her sights on the students and parents of a Montessori-style preparatory school. I don't feel a particular need to explain what happens, because it's pretty well-traveled stuff. Where BERNADE What we have here is a satirical epistolary novel about a bunch of whiny one percenters in Seattle. Ms. Semple is sending up Seattle elites, which here seem to be typified by Bernadette's husband Elgie, a granola eating, public transport using, bike riding, Microsoft employee with a genius IQ. She also sets her sights on the students and parents of a Montessori-style preparatory school. I don't feel a particular need to explain what happens, because it's pretty well-traveled stuff. Where BERNADETTE sets itself apart is the storytelling style. The story here takes the form of a packet of documents that Bernadette's daughter has prepared after Bernadette disappears. These include emails between Elgie's assistant and a disgruntled neighbor, emails between Bernadette and her Indian assistant Manjula, police reports, magazine articles, etc. These documents have a kind of zingy, lighthearted, ironic quality about them, and it makes for an energetic and enjoyable story. Narration between the documents is provided in brief snippets by Bernadette's precocious daughter Bee. Alas, there are many problems, and the book never lives up to its promise. Semple is trying to have it both ways. Bernadette, for example is a ruthlessly satirized Type A East Coast transplant. We're supposed to find her ridiculous, but we're also expected to fall for her. Semple wants us to believe she's a genius because she won a MacArthur genius grant, even though there's very little else in the way of supporting evidence. She wants us to find Bernadette mysterious and admirable. But I was never really drawn in by Bernadette's positive qualities, or able to find them at all. This wouldn't have been a problem for me if it wasn't so clear that I was supposed to like her. Also, the title and jacket copy of this book seem to promise that it's about the mysterious disappearance of, and search for, Bernadette. The problem is that Bernadette never really disappears. She leaves briefly, but her reasons for leaving are pretty clear, and it's not hard to guess where she went--the setting of Antarctica, promised by the icy mountains on the cover and tons and tons of buildup throughout, might provide a clue. But the book suffers the most when the narration switches to Bee full time after the disappearance. This switch is somewhat painstakingly explained, but it felt lazy to me. There had to be a way to keep the form that had been so successful for the first two thirds of the book for the final act. It felt like Semple was trying to write a book that was zany, unique, and inventive, but also perfectly conventional, with all the benefits of both storytelling styles. In my mind, this book depended on the inventiveness of its epistolary style, and abandoning it was disaster. All in all, worth reading. This is the kind of book that very well could have left me shaking my head and wondering how the author pulled it off, if only she had pulled it off. Ah, well. I received this in ARC form from the Nervous Breakdown book club, and I hope they dress it up a bit for the hardcover. I think it would be better if the documents appeared in different forms and fonts, if Elgie's handwritten letter appeared handwritten, etc. I can't close this review without saying that this book's cover is unfortunate. While I did have issues here, this book represents a serious effort, and it deserved a serious cover. It will be interesting to see what Maria Semple does next.
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  • Ashley
    December 1, 2012
    Well, let this be a lesson to those who would open their mouths and spew venom into the world. I once wrote very publicly and loudly on this here Goodreads that I could never love a satire -- don't even remember which book I was reviewing*. The point is, this book has made me eat my words. This fucking book, man. I loved it. It's my cheese, my oreo cookie, my soft blanket on a cold winter's night, my let's pack everything up and head out for an adventure because FUCK YEAH WE'RE ALIVE. I'm so gla Well, let this be a lesson to those who would open their mouths and spew venom into the world. I once wrote very publicly and loudly on this here Goodreads that I could never love a satire -- don't even remember which book I was reviewing*. The point is, this book has made me eat my words. This fucking book, man. I loved it. It's my cheese, my oreo cookie, my soft blanket on a cold winter's night, my let's pack everything up and head out for an adventure because FUCK YEAH WE'RE ALIVE. I'm so glad I randomly picked this book up at my library. Like, last second, I was checking out and there it was, and I just grabbed it. Best last minute decision ever.*Found it! And oh, of course it was a Waugh.Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a modern day epistolary novel, but not like one of those ones you read as a teenager with like whiny emails and diary entries from lovelorn pimple-faces, it's like layers and layers of subtle genius. Bee is fifteen and loves her mother, her eccentric and troubled mother, who one day disappears. The book is a meta-compilation supposedly put together by Bee of emails, articles, and other assorted correspondences that tell the story of Bernadette: what made her who she is, and what led up to her disappearance. The first 75% of the book is just a delightful satire, on the wealthy and privileged, on the self-deluded and spiritually empty -- but what really makes it are the bits of real emotion that are constantly peeking through. This story genuinely made me feel things, and like I mean that it in all caps, FEEL THINGS. Plus, it's just wacky. Maria Semple used to work on Arrested Development, if that gives you some idea of what I mean by 'wacky.'Now, just to warn you, I'm writing this all high off the ending (which was just fucking lovely), so I might be a bit biased, and you might end up reading it and being like, Ashley, what the fuck? Just keep that in mind. But to put it in frame of reference, I liked this book almost as much as I liked Ready Player One (and I fucking love Ready Player One), but it's a different kind of love. I don't want to say anymore because I just want you to go read the book. I mean it. GO!
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  • Raeleen Lemay
    July 5, 2016
    For the first time ever, I'm going with the Goodreads-appointed rating system. This book was simply "OK", therefore I am giving it 2 stars. I didn't hate it or anything, but it really didn't do anything for me.I didn't find it funny (or all that quirky to be quite honest), and the characters were all a bit bland. I was also disappointed that what I had originally thought was the whole point of the book (Bernadette disappearing right before a trip to Antarctica) didn't even happen until way later For the first time ever, I'm going with the Goodreads-appointed rating system. This book was simply "OK", therefore I am giving it 2 stars. I didn't hate it or anything, but it really didn't do anything for me.I didn't find it funny (or all that quirky to be quite honest), and the characters were all a bit bland. I was also disappointed that what I had originally thought was the whole point of the book (Bernadette disappearing right before a trip to Antarctica) didn't even happen until way later in the story. I found the lead-up to Bernadette's disappearance to be quite dull, and I only became vaguely interested when it finally happened.I don't have very strong emotions towards this book, which leads me to believe it just wasn't for me.
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  • Richard Derus
    December 7, 2012
    Pearl RuledRating: 1.6* of five (p97)The Publisher Says: 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 Pearl RuledRating: 1.6* of five (p97)The Publisher Says: 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 Review: I do not care where this stupid, whining woman went. I want her to stay there and remain anonymous.Awful. Negative. Condescending to agoraphobics. It's as noxious as Gone Girl, and cloaked in humor instead of viciousness it still makes me mad. Jonathan Franzen liked it, so did Garth Stein and Kate Atkinson. Note to self: When writers whose work you dislike intensely blurb a book, ignore the hype and avoid it. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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  • Fabian
    February 27, 2014
    Simply put: READ THIS or you WILL have a supremely LAME life. Yup, this is a total classic--a brilliant novel that the critics have hailed as impossibly LOL fuhu-nny. But I simply must add on to this (and this is why this has been the best novel I've read since "The Art of Fielding"): truth is, it will make you cry. Bawl-like-a-baby cry... over the disappearance of this unique individual. Finding her is the main objective in this crazy mixed-media project. "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is what as Simply put: READ THIS or you WILL have a supremely LAME life. Yup, this is a total classic--a brilliant novel that the critics have hailed as impossibly LOL fuhu-nny. But I simply must add on to this (and this is why this has been the best novel I've read since "The Art of Fielding"): truth is, it will make you cry. Bawl-like-a-baby cry... over the disappearance of this unique individual. Finding her is the main objective in this crazy mixed-media project. "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is what astute book worms crave. ABSOLUTE MUST !! !! !! !!READREADREADREADREADREAD!!!!!!!!! I will never stop recommending Bernadette! It is one of the best novels of the 21 st century.
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  • Lormac
    August 9, 2013
    There is a new genre of contemporary fiction in which believability is thrown out the window in favor of wacky plot machinations, but which is not satire because the emotions of the characters are too real. (See also, "This Is Where I Leave You.")When her daughter was born with a heart condition which gave her skin a blueish hue, Bernadette Fox named her daughter, Balakrishna Branch, because the Indian God, Krishna, is blue and the name means "child Krishna." Wacky, huh?!! (In case you were wond There is a new genre of contemporary fiction in which believability is thrown out the window in favor of wacky plot machinations, but which is not satire because the emotions of the characters are too real. (See also, "This Is Where I Leave You.")When her daughter was born with a heart condition which gave her skin a blueish hue, Bernadette Fox named her daughter, Balakrishna Branch, because the Indian God, Krishna, is blue and the name means "child Krishna." Wacky, huh?!! (In case you were wondering, Bernadette is not Indian, and she isn't even Hindu.) Bernadette calls all of the other mothers at her daughter's school "gnats" because they are bothersome to her - always wanting her to particpate in classroom activities. Wacky, huh?!! Bernadette spends her grant money buying a girls' reform school in Seattle to renovate as their home and which is in such disrepair that weeds grow up through the floorboards so she has to hire a gardener to weed-whack the dining room. Wacky, huh?!! Oh, and did I mention that she is a genius - MacArthur grant and all?Bernadette's husband is also wacky!! He doesn't wear shoes when he works!! He asks to be removed from his daughter's school email list because he doesnt have time to read all that nonsense!! He wears headphones so people don't bother him on the Microsoft bus!! Oh, and he is a genius too with the Number 4 most popular TED talk!!! Semple puts these wacky folks into all sorts of wacky situations - a mud slide during the progressive school's prospective kindergarten parents brunch, a police raid at the Westin hotel, a quest to obtain illegal psychotic medication to avoid seasickness, an FBI sting operation, an escape across the Antarctic Sea in Zodiac boats. There is so much wackiness that it becomes exhausting.The problem is that Bernadette's daughter, Bee, is a totally believable character. A fifteen-year-old girl who has overcome her health issues, and loves to learn, and loves her wacky parents despite it all, so as a reader, on Bee's behalf, I became outraged when Semple has these parents behave in ways which injure Bee, again and again, through their self-centeredness, their childishness, and their neglect. I don't understand how Semple wants me, the reader, to react, and that is a problem.Semple writes well - she is clever and has a nice turn of phrase, and I enjoyed parts of this book tremendously, but as a whole, it did not hold together for me at all.As a final insult, this book ends so suddenly, it gave me whiplash. I was listening to it on CD and I pulled the car over to make sure that somehow I had not lost a disk, despite the fact that the narrator was intoning, "Thank you for listening to...." I could not believe it. I could not believe that the book was over. I have no idea what happened to these characters or how the plot was resolved. I was shocked.
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  • Steve
    April 12, 2013
    I figure my best hope of getting more readers than the Cubs have victories is to mention straight away Maria Semple’s bona fides as a satirist. So here it is: she wrote for Arrested Development. Her talent for skewering plays out well in book form, too, as it turns out. Bernadette, the protagonist, is creative, whip-smart, and now that her daughter, Bee, is past some pretty serious childhood health issues, able to devote herself almost entirely to snarky send-ups. The targets are primarily from I figure my best hope of getting more readers than the Cubs have victories is to mention straight away Maria Semple’s bona fides as a satirist. So here it is: she wrote for Arrested Development. Her talent for skewering plays out well in book form, too, as it turns out. Bernadette, the protagonist, is creative, whip-smart, and now that her daughter, Bee, is past some pretty serious childhood health issues, able to devote herself almost entirely to snarky send-ups. The targets are primarily from Seattle where they live. Beyond the standard subjects of grunge, rain, coffee and Microsoft (where husband, Elgie, is an engineering superstar), there are also the cliquish and bothersome moms from Bee’s school. Complications arise, though, wouldn’t you know. Much of the book is back-story told in epistolary form. There are email exchanges between Bernadette and an online personal assistant, notes from Bee’s school, several catty moms opining about Bee’s parents, and various other documents of a plot-spoiling nature. From these we learn that Bee is the most outstanding student in her 8th grade class, Bernadette was an award-winning architect in earlier days, Elgie gave the 4th most popular TED talk ever, they’re planning a family trip to Antarctica to see penguins, and the gnats (as Bernadette refers to the busybody moms from the school) are out of control. The list of problems is a long one, too: Bernadette has lost her professional mojo, Elgie is married to his job, one of the gnats becomes Elgie’s admin, Bernadette has become over-reliant on her personal assistant, and another gnat has brought trumped up charges against Bernadette. Breaking points were reached. Near perfect storm status was achieved. Bee narrates the story of her mom’s disappearance and the subsequent search. But it’s a disservice to go much deeper into the plot. Instead, I’ll mention the pleasure of the overall tone. For one thing, the social satire was done well. The supporting characters were revealed cleverly, with more than just their stereotypes to define them. It was also nice that we weren’t just told that Bernadette, Elgie and Bee were smart, we got to see the evidence of it as well. Another point in the book’s favor is that it had more than just humor going for it. There were also deeper probes into relationships for us to consider. Special mother-daughter bonds were handled deftly.I have a friend or two out there (oddly enough, near broad-minded Boston (view spoiler)[Note that I did not say Milford since that would have been specific enough to identify exactly who I meant (hide spoiler)]) who might be tempted to judge a book by its cover, and in this particular case assume “chick lit.” While it does have a female perspective, I personally wouldn’t defile it with such a label. If it’s smart, funny and uplifting, just enjoy it independent of classification, cover and commercial appeal. It didn’t change my life (my new criterion for five stars), but it did lighten the load for a while. At the same time, there was more ballast than you’d expect from, say, Lucille Bluth, Lindsay and Maeby.
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  • Rich
    October 14, 2012
    This book about Seattle "Subaru Parents" describes my life so chillingly accurately that I am now absolved of writing my own book about their Portland-counterparts' bat-shit antics. Favorites: "Suddenly, Audrey Griffin started running toward the car all stiff and out of rhythm. You could just tell she hadn't run in about ten years." -22. "Perhaps because we both went to prep school and Ivy League universities ourselves, we did not fetishize them like other Seattle parents." -43. "Wooowww," Audre This book about Seattle "Subaru Parents" describes my life so chillingly accurately that I am now absolved of writing my own book about their Portland-counterparts' bat-shit antics. Favorites: "Suddenly, Audrey Griffin started running toward the car all stiff and out of rhythm. You could just tell she hadn't run in about ten years." -22. "Perhaps because we both went to prep school and Ivy League universities ourselves, we did not fetishize them like other Seattle parents." -43. "Wooowww," Audrey Griffin said, spreading the word up and down like a roller coaster. Her voice was so full of hate and craziness that it pierced my skin." -85. "There's a story that during the filming of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola had a sign on his trailer: 'Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two." -113. The book becomes less plausible, more fantastic as it goes, rising in a crescendo of unbelievability -- but it's all benevolent and fun, and you barely notice it and it's easy to go along with it. There's magical-thinking, including the idea of truly terrible human beings finding redemption and owning their misdeeds and apologizing to those they've hurt with lies, slander, and manipulation. But really wonderful in a, "I wish that would actually happen! I wish people didn't just become more of their worst traits as they aged!" Sheesh, what a pessimist I am. I probably need to join VAV -- "Victims Against Victimhood," an awesome critique of the bullshittiness of 12-step groups. A great book.
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  • Lola Reviewer
    December 2, 2016
    Wow, okay. This is not the book I expected to read. The blurb makes it seem like it’s a ‘‘laugh-out-loud-worthy’’ mystery novel about a mother who disappears and a daughter who moves mountains to find her mom.Sure, that does happen… in the last 3/4 of the book. Before that, it’s around 250 pages of random, (sometimes) unnecessary e-mail exchanges, some of them between characters that we don’t even care for—at least, I didn’t—as well as numerous anecdotes and mishaps.They do somehow contribute to Wow, okay. This is not the book I expected to read. The blurb makes it seem like it’s a ‘‘laugh-out-loud-worthy’’ mystery novel about a mother who disappears and a daughter who moves mountains to find her mom.Sure, that does happen… in the last 3/4 of the book. Before that, it’s around 250 pages of random, (sometimes) unnecessary e-mail exchanges, some of them between characters that we don’t even care for—at least, I didn’t—as well as numerous anecdotes and mishaps.They do somehow contribute to Bernadette’s disappearance, but only a few specific ones. Still, it’s a page-turner in the sense that all those literally props—letters, interviews, e-mails—are easy to read and relatively humorous.I didn’t think this was a ‘‘laugh-out-loud’’ type of book, but it does contain a good couple of clever dialogs and original scenes.The characters are not ones I cared too much for. Bernadette, Bee, Elgie and the rest of the cast aren’t presented to us in a way that feels genuine. The way they acted and spoke made them look phony, especially Bernadette. She’s such an easy target for ridicule. I guess because so many things are exaggerated. But, at its core, this book does have meaningful themes. Bee’s love for her mother is admirable. Bernadette’s disappearance is impressive. The relationship between Bee and Bernadette reminded me of the one between Lorelai and Rory from Gilmore Girls.It’s not a realistic book, but an entertaining one for sure.Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’
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  • Paige
    March 27, 2013
    Ugh, this book. You see that one star rating? It earned the single star by being mildly engrossing. I know I usually use the word "engrossing" in a positive way, to convey that a book was compelling and interesting, fascinating and exciting. Here I mean that it was just, somehow, able to hold my attention. Not even interest, really, just attention. Somehow. I don't know how. Well I guess this is how: it was entertaining in a way, and it definitely had a certain readability about it. I'm kind of Ugh, this book. You see that one star rating? It earned the single star by being mildly engrossing. I know I usually use the word "engrossing" in a positive way, to convey that a book was compelling and interesting, fascinating and exciting. Here I mean that it was just, somehow, able to hold my attention. Not even interest, really, just attention. Somehow. I don't know how. Well I guess this is how: it was entertaining in a way, and it definitely had a certain readability about it. I'm kind of drawn to reading about other people's drama, and that's basically what this whole thing was--catty people and personal family problems and drama.I didn't like any of the characters. I liked the IDEA of Bernadette, but not really her when she was interacting with anyone or writing things herself--just the idea of her, when other people were talking about her. Bee was supposed to be this awesome girl, like the one exception to every other female in the book, who are without exception "snobbish," "smell weird," manipulative and "crazy" and back-bitey and unhinged. But apparently the author didn't notice(?) that Bee is way judgmental too.But that's really only part of the misogyny/sexism written into this book (and written into our culture). Then there's the way this book treats relationships between men & women, the gender essentializing, etc. Also the ableism, the white privilege it's dripping with. It's just a whole mess of yuck.It gets one star for the readability & the drama. It lost all the other stars because I kind of hated its tone (every person in it uses the same voice, by the way), its content, its underlying assumptions, its message, I could go on...but I've wated enough time on it already. It's too bad that this brain candy/beach trash novel turned so icky for me.
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  • Meg
    October 21, 2012
    This is my favorite book that I have read in a long while. Is five stars sort of ambitious? IT WOULD BE EXCEPT THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK I HAVE READ IN A LONG LONG WHILE. So five stars, I don't care, five stars. Oh my gosh I don't even know where to start you guys. It's funny, but that's not just it. It's incredibly well-written, but that's not just it. It's got a really fun structure that is executed really well, but that's not just it, either! It's just, I feel like this might be one of the bes This is my favorite book that I have read in a long while. Is five stars sort of ambitious? IT WOULD BE EXCEPT THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK I HAVE READ IN A LONG LONG WHILE. So five stars, I don't care, five stars. Oh my gosh I don't even know where to start you guys. It's funny, but that's not just it. It's incredibly well-written, but that's not just it. It's got a really fun structure that is executed really well, but that's not just it, either! It's just, I feel like this might be one of the best books I've ever read about art and women and motherhood and technology and life and Seattle. I mean, Bernadette is infuriating. Reading her sections of this book, you want to slap her just as much as you want her to like you (!). She says terrifically horrible things but also these deeply-felt things, she is complex and brilliant and depressed and hopeful all at once. And Elgie, for a while I was worried about him ever being a character for real, but then he just -- he just EXPLODES at the end of the book, just, perfectly sketched in. And the gnats, who, I mean, the gnats, and their evolution. And Ice Cream. And Abbey Road. And that completely amazing Artforum article. And.And Bee, gosh. Bee. Bee who, since she is a fictional character, I would like to take her hand and introduce her to another young fictional lady from Seattle, Ruby Oliver. The two have a lot to say to each other, I think. Bee is the rare teenage protagonist who shows up in an adult novel acting like an actual teenager. No extra swearing or slang to prove something, no wacked-out diction. Just, a teenager, who is smart, and young, and trying. I will admit--I felt things slow a little when Bernadette disappeared. I missed her right away, I wanted more of her correspondence and I worried that the ending would disappoint me. But! I worried for nothing. I cried twice. I laughed forever. So good.
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  • Rebbie
    February 2, 2017
    4 1/2 magnificent stars!!Another fitting name could be: How Bernadette Got Her Groove Back :pBernadette Fox, a wealthy agoraphobe with a teenage daughter and a semi-absentee (emotionally, anyhow) husband, quite literally disappears before taking off on a family trip to Antarctica.Oh, how fun it is to dislike the witch on wheels (aka the Gnat), Audrey, who then morphs into a slightly-imbalanced but milder version of Bernadette. In my mind, this makes her downright loveable! The character who is t 4 1/2 magnificent stars!!Another fitting name could be: How Bernadette Got Her Groove Back :pBernadette Fox, a wealthy agoraphobe with a teenage daughter and a semi-absentee (emotionally, anyhow) husband, quite literally disappears before taking off on a family trip to Antarctica.Oh, how fun it is to dislike the witch on wheels (aka the Gnat), Audrey, who then morphs into a slightly-imbalanced but milder version of Bernadette. In my mind, this makes her downright loveable! The character who is truly infuriating is Soo-Lin, but I will say no more in case you want to read the book. Many readers seem to hate on Bernadette's husband Elgie (and with good reason), but if you're the forgiving type like I am, you'll feel compassion toward his character. The only issue with this book is that it seems to end abruptly. However, the mark of a great book is that it leaves you wanting more no matter how it ends, so this feeling is entirely forgivable. If you're looking for a fun, spunky read, then this book will be right up your alley.
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  • Nataliya
    June 5, 2014
    Even on the busiest call nights at work, the phrase that never fails to grab my attention regardless of whatever else I may be doing is, "I hear you like reading. Have you ever read _____?"That's how I first heard about Where'd You Go, Bernadette. The call night was painfully slow, the wifi was actually working, the Kindle app on my phone was begging for a free sample which turned out to be hilarious, my brain was headed into the 22nd hour of being awake, and the impulse buy predictably happened Even on the busiest call nights at work, the phrase that never fails to grab my attention regardless of whatever else I may be doing is, "I hear you like reading. Have you ever read _____?"That's how I first heard about Where'd You Go, Bernadette. The call night was painfully slow, the wifi was actually working, the Kindle app on my phone was begging for a free sample which turned out to be hilarious, my brain was headed into the 22nd hour of being awake, and the impulse buy predictably happened.I loved it at first, but the closer I got to the finish line the higher my eyebrows climbed and the deeper the eyeballs rolled. Maybe finishing it after getting enough sleep had something to do with the disappearance of giddy happiness and the emergence of the ambivalent noncommittal shrug at what I just read.It starts as a clever satire featuring the cream of the crop of Seattle, Washington - a place where Microsoft has its headquarters and where the people do not live up to the standards of haughty and cultured LA transplants. It's a satire on the privileged world or suburban moms obsessed with the image of their little private schools and the local silly gossip and a satire on the world of Microsoft bubble. Its a satire on the poorly adjusted and not-so-tolerant haughty transplants from the more 'cultured' and 'worldly' places who snigger and judge those around them while relying on the services of an outsourced personal assistant company ($ 0.75 per hour!). It's pieced together from a flurry of emails, letters, post-it notes and tied together by a commentary of a bright teenager in the middle of all the events. And it's such an easy and fun page-turning read - perfectly suited to a slow sleep-deprived call shift at work. And yet the satire ends up resembling - too closely! - the world it satirizes, failing to rise beyond the shallow and easy, failing to bite or sting or really make you care. It fails to do more that remain suitably entertaining, fails to keep its focus on anything that even threatens to become at all uncomfortable, and fails to make enough of an impact to care. It instead remains fluffy and silly and very readable, and giggle-worthy, and ultimately satisfying in the same way Nutella is - strangely addicting but nutrients-poor, and honestly, not contributing much to the (mental) health, and leaving a way-too-sweet aftertaste for hours. (For a record, I love Nutella.)(And I, regardless of overall disappointment, still had a great time reading this book.)(But neither of them can replace nicely cooked Brussel sprouts.)(Which I also love, for all the right reasons.)(Especially if you add some cheese sauce.)(But that's another story.)
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  • Debbie
    January 19, 2017
    What a fun read to begin the new year! I resisted reading this for quite some time, as I generally like a deeper read. Yet, right from the beginning the peculiarities of Seattle and Microsoft were sprinkled in through the story. Hmm, I have a Goodreads friend who lived there and worked at Microsoft. Now I know why she's the crazy nut she is (you know who you are.) I loved how the story was often told through emails between the characters, interspersed with the main character, a teenage girl name What a fun read to begin the new year! I resisted reading this for quite some time, as I generally like a deeper read. Yet, right from the beginning the peculiarities of Seattle and Microsoft were sprinkled in through the story. Hmm, I have a Goodreads friend who lived there and worked at Microsoft. Now I know why she's the crazy nut she is (you know who you are.) I loved how the story was often told through emails between the characters, interspersed with the main character, a teenage girl named Bee. This was just a crazy fun read!
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  • Jaidee
    May 29, 2013
    1.5 "whatever~~" stars...Maria Semple is a very clever, clear and concise writer which are all really good attributes....however this book was beyond disappointing.....it was at the upper end of "crap".....two dimensional caricatures behaving so horribly and uncomprehendingly towards each other....each character was more unlikeable than the last not in some interesting and insightful way (the Casual Vacancy comes to mind in its psychological empathic brilliance) but in a way that makes you fear 1.5 "whatever~~" stars...Maria Semple is a very clever, clear and concise writer which are all really good attributes....however this book was beyond disappointing.....it was at the upper end of "crap".....two dimensional caricatures behaving so horribly and uncomprehendingly towards each other....each character was more unlikeable than the last not in some interesting and insightful way (the Casual Vacancy comes to mind in its psychological empathic brilliance) but in a way that makes you fear for American culture and the selfishness and narcissism that may be inherent in our upper middle classes.I want to end by saying "I don't care where the f###ck you went Bernadette and I wished you had stayed there".
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  • Julie
    June 9, 2013
    I wasn’t planning to crack the cover of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. In fact, I actively resisted reading 2012’s sleeper hit. It has all the makings of something that would send me searching for that elusive “dislike” button. Social satire: Ugh. Chick lit affect (entirely and unfairly due to cover art): Ugh Ugh. Epistolary format with multiple points-of-view (tricksy, metafiction, “I’m a WRITAH” stuff): Ugh Ugh Ugh. Spoofy, anti-Seattle drivel penned by interloper from Southern California (haven’ I wasn’t planning to crack the cover of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. In fact, I actively resisted reading 2012’s sleeper hit. It has all the makings of something that would send me searching for that elusive “dislike” button. Social satire: Ugh. Chick lit affect (entirely and unfairly due to cover art): Ugh Ugh. Epistolary format with multiple points-of-view (tricksy, metafiction, “I’m a WRITAH” stuff): Ugh Ugh Ugh. Spoofy, anti-Seattle drivel penned by interloper from Southern California (haven’t you all done enough?): Ugh Ugh Ugh Ugh. But there it was, on the $1 table at the library sale. What could I lose but a buck? Okay, so… I totally loved this book. It’s magical. Maria Semple makes me laugh out-Parks-and-Recreation-loud (there’s my obligatory pop culture reference. Maria Semple is a celebrated Hollywood scriptwriter - yes, I know she didn't write for P&R, but that's the one comedy I know- we discovered P&R in Ireland last year and rented several DVDs during the dark hours of life last winter. I haven’t had TV since 1994. My television comedy literacy is stuck someplace between Wings and Murphy Brown. This book tickled the same funny bone as P&R. That's why I bring it up). The book’s magic is multi-fold. Satire often relies on caricature to reflect life’s absurdities, missing the irony that life is so freaking absurd all by itself, there’s no need for a novel to dump on its characters by making them freaks, as well. Semple gives us real people in real time, setting the horizon slightly a-tilt so your balance is off but you aren’t stumbling like a drunk. She blends the bizarre with moments of grace and clarity that reveal the depth of her characters and her themes. Humor works best when it pokes at our most vulnerable spots and shows us that everyone else has those spots, too.The narrative is laid out in a series of e-mails, letters, articles, police reports, TED talk transcripts and department memos written by a cast of adult characters, but the primary point-of-view is delivered in traditional third-person. And this voice belongs to thirteen-year-old Bee, the tiny (congenital heart defect) daughter of Microsoft exec Elgin Branch and his wife, Bernadette. Bernadette, around whom this story foams and eddies, is a once-celebrated architect and a now-wiggy recluse. The contrast of correspondence and detached transcript versus a child’s perspective is a brilliant technique: the adults talk at one another, while the purest, most reliable character addresses the reader directly. Semple’s spoofs are fun-house mirror reflections of layers of upper-middle class American society: oversharing to strangers via the save-face format of e-mail and social media (the exchanges between Bernadette and her $.75/hour personal assistant Manjula, who is based in India, are screamingly funny); the obsession with work and achievement (woe to Microsoft, whose culture is skewered and roasted like a vegan hotdog on a gas grill); dogmatic liberalism –Bee splutters her outrage towards her private school: “Their class was studying China, and the debate was going to be pro and con Chinese occupation of Tibet. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Galer Street is so ridiculous that is goes beyond PC and turns back in on itself to the point where fourth graders are actually having to debate the advantages of China’s genocide of the Tibetan people, not the mention the equally devastating cultural genocide. This is one bright kid and one whacked-out progressive school. And then there is Seattle. I read an interview last year in which Maria Semple admitted this book was her rant on all that drove her batty about “this dreary upper-left corner of the Lower Forty-eight” shortly after she moved here; now that she’s been here awhile, she can’t imagine living anyplace else. But there is no malice in her observations (okay, maybe just a wee bit toward Microsoft, but we all revile the place and anyway, it’s not in Seattle); instead, the author works her magic yet again, nailing dead on the bull’s eye all that makes Seattle maddening and lovely. Although the social strata she spoofs could exist anywhere in America’s wealthier reaches, the details she provides are so crazy-true I caught myself gasping with an insider’s recognition. Elgin’s “bike-riding, Subaru-driving, Keen-wearing alter ego…”? Umm… guilty. Molly Moon’s Salted Caramel ice cream? Jesus. I dream of the stuff. Cliff Mass Weather Blog? The house goes silent at 9 a.m. every Friday so I can listen to Cliff’ prognostications for the week ahead. I can hear his baritone in every syllable of Semple’s transcript. The five-way intersections? Oh. I know EXACTLY where the author (and Bernadette) lost her mind on Queen Anne (though no one calls it Queen Anne Hill, just so’s you know). Yes, they lurk everywhere throughout our fair city. The Microsoft Connecter? I know it waited every morning on 45th in Wallingford for the express purpose of pulling out in front of me as I raced to beat the next light. Daniel’s Broiler on Lake Union? I always wondered who ate there. If anyone I know has, they aren’t admitting it. Blackberry bushes, the Westin, rain? Check check check. Bernadatte rants to a former colleague: “What you’ve heard about the rain: it’s all true. So you’d think it would become part of the fabric, especially among the lifers. But every time it rains, and you have to interact with someone, here’s what they’ll say” “Can you believe the weather?” And you want to say “Actually, I can believe the weather. What I can’t believe is that I’m actually having a conversation about the weather.” The city, and Bernadette’s reactions to it, are part of the web that bears the weight of Semple’s heavier themes: a lost sense of self, depression, isolation and anxiety. That she can hold it all together with such a deft hand at slapstick comedy without being cruel is yet another form of magic. The plot twists are genius. For Bernadette is not lost just in a metaphorical sense. Semple takes us on a cruise to Antarctica and the book’s title becomes a call that echoes in the blue glaciers of this frozen continent. Hang on – you might get a little seasick as you try to keep up, but it’s so worth the ride. Maria Semple has written a crazy-good, original, hilarious, sweet and tender novel about a woman falling apart. I think I saw that woman sitting in the window of Starbucks on the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Boston last winter, laughing to herself. It was raining pretty hard, so I can’t be certain it was she. Maybe it was just my reflection.
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  • Suzanne
    October 20, 2012
    When I first heard about this book, it sounded as though it might be just a story whose main point was to disparage Seattle. But although there is humor in the book that might seem to be at the expense of Seattle in particular, it could have been set any number of places. The main character, Bernardette, does go off on some diatribes, but it’s nothing more than the sort of complaining any urban dweller might do in any number of big cities. The books lampoons institutions such as private schools When I first heard about this book, it sounded as though it might be just a story whose main point was to disparage Seattle. But although there is humor in the book that might seem to be at the expense of Seattle in particular, it could have been set any number of places. The main character, Bernardette, does go off on some diatribes, but it’s nothing more than the sort of complaining any urban dweller might do in any number of big cities. The books lampoons institutions such as private schools (and their weird obsessive parental rituals), Microsoft culture (but this could just as easily have been the movie industry in L.A., or academia in any college town, or something else, somewhere else), and aggravating trials of everyday life such as 5-way streets and long traffic signals. She communicates her dismay at having to navigate around “runaways, drug addicts, and bums,” how one has to “step over them on your way in” to Nordstrom, or watch one of them at Starbucks “hogging the milk counter because he’s sprinkling free cinnamon on his head.” (My Starbucks in suburban L.A.is often out of cinnamon. Not saying for the same reason. But it’s suspicious.) You pretty much get what the tone of the book will be on the first page with the announcement of Bee’s school’s motto: “a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.” Bernadette’s target just happens to be Seattle because she’s unhappy in more general ways since her tech-star husband’s job at Microsoft brought them there. She’s suffered a couple of serious set-backs in her own career as a cutting-edge architect and has had to worry about the critical health issues of her daughter Bee. A crazy-quilt cast of characters unrolls from e-mails, articles, bulletins, receipts, and other types of correspondence and documents that form this epistolary novel: a consultant hired by Bee’s school to help it compete for “Mercedes parents,” enemy neighbors Bernadette calls “gnats,” husband Elgie’s “admin” at work who dispenses a lot of pop psychology learned at her “Victims Against Victimhood” group, Bernadette’s India-based virtual personal assistant, and a host of others . Bernadette is a pretty prickly character with a reputation among the other parents and various locals as being asocial and a little strange (deservedly). She has some run-ins with other people that cause more grief to herself than to them, and she’s hard to like at first. But when the sources of her anguish and dysfunction are revealed, I was surprised how much my feelings turned around.The story is definitely entertaining. A series of tribulations finally results in Bernadette’s disappearance and her smart and determined teenage daughter Bee has to take the lead in trying to find her. While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped for, it was a fun time, all in all. And there’s architecture! And Antarctica! What’s not to like?
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  • Isabel Allende
    December 23, 2013
    Where'd you go Bernardette, by Maria Semple is simple a riot of abook. I laughed so uncontrollably in the plane that some passengerscomplained. A Seattle teenage girl tells the story of how and why hereccentric mother, who has alienated everybody around her, includingher Microsoft geek of a husband, ends up lost in Antarctica. Not tomiss if you need to get over a bout of depression.
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  • Michelle
    August 4, 2012
    A fun to read novel, hard to put down, but not totally satisfying. It rattles along at a fast clip, told in the form of emails and reports, about a Seattle family. The locations - Seattle and Antarctica - seem to be as important as the characters.Bernadette is a stay at home mother who is remarkably anti social. She has no friends and doesn't like leaving the house, hiring an online virtual assistant based in India to carry out very simple chores. Her husband Elgie is a salt of the earth type, b A fun to read novel, hard to put down, but not totally satisfying. It rattles along at a fast clip, told in the form of emails and reports, about a Seattle family. The locations - Seattle and Antarctica - seem to be as important as the characters.Bernadette is a stay at home mother who is remarkably anti social. She has no friends and doesn't like leaving the house, hiring an online virtual assistant based in India to carry out very simple chores. Her husband Elgie is a salt of the earth type, beloved by his team members at Microsoft, and daughter Bee is clever smart and loving. But throw in architectural drama, blackberries, school gate politics, workplace restructuring and poncey boarding schools and you have a novel with drama and flair. You find yourself loving Bernadette and at the same time wanting to slap her for her selfishness. All the characters seem to have flaws and strengths in equal numbers.Nice touches - Antarctica is a special place, and long may it remain so. I'm glad the characters gave us a chance to experience the atmosphere. Nice to have a New Zealand character - we feel so insignificant in our tiny nation at the end of the earth! I loved the PC school and it's zealous mothers, they were so over the top (I'm hoping they don't really exist...) But the ending was a bit too neat and tidy, and everyone was sort of redeemed and realised the errors of their ways, which I doubt most people do in their lifetimes :)
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  • Oriana
    October 13, 2012
    I came home from a lovely late dinner and was heading to the computer because there are so many things I have to do before I go back to work on Wednesday. But I thought first I'd make a quick cup of tea to shore me up, and while the water was boiling I figured I'd just read for a sec—and before I knew it I was on the couch under a comforter eating an entire bag of kettle corn and an hour had passed and I was turning the final pages of this delightful little gem.About the book: It's a blackish li I came home from a lovely late dinner and was heading to the computer because there are so many things I have to do before I go back to work on Wednesday. But I thought first I'd make a quick cup of tea to shore me up, and while the water was boiling I figured I'd just read for a sec—and before I knew it I was on the couch under a comforter eating an entire bag of kettle corn and an hour had passed and I was turning the final pages of this delightful little gem.About the book: It's a blackish little comedy of manners. It's kind of caper-y, and the plot gets maybe a little too absurd at times, but whatever. Some things to be found herein: outsider art, teen delinquents, tween geniuses, Seattle techie culture, architecture, interventions, Antarctica, gospel, mudslides, misanthropy, and a dog named Ice Cream. How can you not already be laughing?Another important thing to know is that this is an epistolary novel, that thing where it's all written in letters—in this case emails, doctors' reports, faxes, post-it notes, etc.—although it's an epistolary novel like a rock opera is an opera, in that there are plenty of crucial passages written as standard narration, giving the reader some necessary background and embellishments that would be tough to glean through letters alone. But this is a really brilliant tactical style, because it allows not just, like, one unreliable narrator, but instead a dozen semi-reliable narrators, each of whom is speaking from his or her own legitimate point of view, one which isn't exactly wrong, but is often not the whole story. Says Maria Semple herself, in that weird backmatter stuff that's like a guide for reading groups or whatever: "Epistolary novels, when done right, can be an explosion of fun." And it is! An explosion! Of fun! You just know Maria had such a marvelous time putting it all together. And even more impressive: I didn't know a thing about the style gimmick going in. When Night Film came out, all anyone could talk about was how it had websites and other modern trickeries woven in, but I heard no one gushing about how this one had a transcription of a TED Talk. Which is pretty impressive, and speaks to how classily it was done, I think.Anyway, it rules. Hurry up and read it, okay?
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  • Glenn Sumi
    December 27, 2015
    I wanted the last book I read in 2015 to be special, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette fit the bill, despite the obvious “chicklit” cover. (More on the cover below.)The book was sweet but not saccharine, full of darkly funny humour but also a real warmth. And it introduced me to two unforgettable characters: Bernadette, a frustrated, mildly agoraphobic mother and former rising star architect, and Bee, her tiny, precocious daughter who was born with a congenital heart condition.Initially I found the I wanted the last book I read in 2015 to be special, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette fit the bill, despite the obvious “chicklit” cover. (More on the cover below.)The book was sweet but not saccharine, full of darkly funny humour but also a real warmth. And it introduced me to two unforgettable characters: Bernadette, a frustrated, mildly agoraphobic mother and former rising star architect, and Bee, her tiny, precocious daughter who was born with a congenital heart condition.Initially I found the book – written in an epistolary style through emails and notes, with additional commentary by Bee – a little hard to navigate. And the eponymous Bernadette seemed annoying and terribly entitled. But once writer Maria Semple filled in Bernadette’s backstory, her behaviour began to make sense. And so did her world of annoying school parents (whom she labels “gnats”), a helpful virtual assistant from India, and an over-worked, barely present husband, Elgin, a superstar engineer at Microsoft.Among other things, we get a sharply satiric look at private schools, a take down of high-maintenance L.A. types, and… oh yeah, a love/hate examination of Seattle, where the book mostly takes place. (Most of my GR friends who know Seattle say Semple’s observations about the city, from its architecture to its five-way intersections, are dead-on.)It’s not until midway through the book where you grasp how Semple – a former writer for clever sitcoms like Arrested Development and Mad About You – has constructed the book. I know a lot of people didn’t like the second half, but I did. That’s where the heart is. And that’s where the cover – not to mention the title – begins to makes sense. Among my takeaways from the book, besides a lovely scene set in a revolving restaurant and a very telling (and symbolic) image of penguins picking fights with other penguins (much like Bernadette’s neighbours do with her), is the concept of the brain as “a discounting mechanism.”Look it up. Or – better yet – read this book.
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  • Robert
    April 5, 2013
    Bernadette Fox might just be the craziest person I have never met. If she consumed enough “happy” pills to actually become a fully-functioning member of society, she’d end up comatose from an overdose and spend the next six years of her life breathing through a respirator. Calling her eccentric gives Randy Quaid, Charlie Sheen, and Courtney Love a bad name. Or to put it another way, Bernadette Fox makes Adrian Monk look like Tom Brady.Audrey Griffin needs to be treated with electric shock therap Bernadette Fox might just be the craziest person I have never met. If she consumed enough “happy” pills to actually become a fully-functioning member of society, she’d end up comatose from an overdose and spend the next six years of her life breathing through a respirator. Calling her eccentric gives Randy Quaid, Charlie Sheen, and Courtney Love a bad name. Or to put it another way, Bernadette Fox makes Adrian Monk look like Tom Brady.Audrey Griffin needs to be treated with electric shock therapy until she ejaculates her back teeth. And her son Kyle (he’s 15), at the age of 21, will be in prison for the rest of his natural life or his body parts will be tossed into storm gutters and unmarked graves. Oh, and Mrs. Griffin probably should experience a form of hell. In her case, she should be forced to sit in front of a TV with headphones on and have her highlight reel played for her on repeat until her ears and eyes bleed.Holy fuckballs! This may be the most insane novel I’ve ever read. It’s hard for me to ascertain its exact level of brilliance because I feel like I need to be in a straitjacket, hooked up to an electric chair, while wearing a metal helmet and a metal diaper.Composed entirely of emails, report cards, receipts, random musings, rants, raves, Bee’s voice, Bernadette’s history, and the preparations for a family trip to Antarctica that are being conducted by an Indian named Manjula Kapoor via the Internet, the first several parts had me entertained and enthralled and nearly hypnotized with delusions of madness and mayhem. There’s a dog named Ice Cream, a friend named Kennedy, a husband named Elgie, the astute services of Delhi Virtual Assistants International, a giant mud sliding billboard, traumatized kindergartners (with possible PTSD), psychotic breaks, selfish and self-pitying delusions of grandeur, and the former home of the Straight Gate School for Girls (the Fox/Branch residence) that probably should have been condemned sometime in the past decade.Like the rest of WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, the ending proved zany and whacky and maybe a bit farfetched. But I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it with a passion, and wanted to beat it with a baseball bat, and then wait till it stood up, and then proceed to whack it again. (view spoiler)[You fled to Antarctica and then the only communication with your fifteen year-old daughter is a letter that she never received, and then to dump the entire contents of your life onto her via a large unmarked envelope. And then to place sole blame for all of your marital problems on your husband, while you sleepwalked through an entire marriage. Seriously? (hide spoiler)]So if you like Seinfeld and Arrested Development (and if you don’t, I feel sorry for your loss, and you probably deserve a hug), then you might just find yourself enjoying this novel.Cross-posted at Robert's Reads
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  • Whitney Atkinson
    October 28, 2015
    I'm left very confused by this book. I think the main issue here is that I thought this book would be totally different, but regardless, I can't wrap my head around this one. People say it's humorous, but to me, it read like a satire and I was feeling left out by the joke. The "humorous" situations were over the top and insanely dramatic, which felt very fake to me. This book just seemed unreal; I couldn't connect to anyone or anything. I liked the audiobook a lot, but it reminded me of Beauty Q I'm left very confused by this book. I think the main issue here is that I thought this book would be totally different, but regardless, I can't wrap my head around this one. People say it's humorous, but to me, it read like a satire and I was feeling left out by the joke. The "humorous" situations were over the top and insanely dramatic, which felt very fake to me. This book just seemed unreal; I couldn't connect to anyone or anything. I liked the audiobook a lot, but it reminded me of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I can't put my finger on where this went wrong but it was boring and strange and in the end, I still don't know if Bernadette is supposed to be psychotic or a genius. This book just went way over my head.
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  • Diane S ☔
    August 13, 2012
    What an absolutely original, inventive and humorous novel, I can't remember the last time I read a novel that caused me to laugh out loud. Bernadette is a definite original, someone I wish I knew in real life. Yet, there are poignant moments, serious self realizations come to the surface and her daughter Bee is an absolute delight as well. Who knew you could form complete characters from e-mails, letters etc. yet in this book Semple does it and does it well. Definitely recommend.
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  • Hilary
    December 28, 2012
    The words “former writer for Arrested Development” are some of the greatest words any author can have in their bio – so great, in fact, that they trump “former writer for Mad About You,” even if they’re in the same sentence. The basic premise – the search for an acerbic rant-prone mother who hates Seattle (and leaving the house) who has mysteriously disappeared (or else it’d be a short search and probably titled something like “Try checking the living room”) – also sounded potentially fun, and i The words “former writer for Arrested Development” are some of the greatest words any author can have in their bio – so great, in fact, that they trump “former writer for Mad About You,” even if they’re in the same sentence. The basic premise – the search for an acerbic rant-prone mother who hates Seattle (and leaving the house) who has mysteriously disappeared (or else it’d be a short search and probably titled something like “Try checking the living room”) – also sounded potentially fun, and it’s getting pretty much universally glowing reviews. And, most importantly, the title combines two great song titles, one by the Bosstones and the other by the Four Tops. Semple uses an epistolary format, tying together emails, journal entries, medical reports, and FBI documents, and the form allows her to involve several different characters who know just enough to keep things mysterious. This format can work well, as it does here for the first two-thirds of the book, moving the plot along quickly and keeping us guessing while also allowing Semple to mock Seattle, Seattleites, overinvolved parents, and support groups that use vacuously self-affirming acronyms at least twice per sentence. These rants are the best part of the book, but her targets are pretty easy pickings: health nuts who wear dumb outfits on their recumbent bikes, poor city planning and its effects on traffic, the weather, Microsoft, etc. It’s entertaining to see Seattle mocked, but you almost half-expect one of the characters to ask what, exactly, is the deal with airline food, or why they don’t make the entire plane out of the black box. In the last third of the book, however, the jokes all seem to disappear with Bernadette, the pace slows considerably, and the format becomes more of a hindrance than anything else, providing only a thin surface level view into the characters and the events that are transpiring. Semple also jumps in and out of the epistolary format whenever it’s convenient, throwing in a narrator who knows everything as needed, defeating the whole purpose of the fragmentary approach. The epistolary format also can be a cop out, as it allows a weak writer to write as little or as shallowly as he or she wants, and in the last hundred pages, it’s increasingly clear how shallowly everything’s been written, as nothing stands up to any level of scrutiny.The end also suffers from increasingly ridiculous plotting and poorly explained shifts in characters (e.g., suddenly finding Christ), which dissipate much of the joy and fun established earlier on. Things happen to characters, but if there’s no internal logic to those characters and we don’t care about any of them, there are no stakes in what happens. In the end, this book suffers from Semple’s television background: as opposed to the rich, nuanced, fully realized vision of a brilliant literary satirist like Martin Amis, we’re left with one-dimensional characters offering sitcom-level insights that wrap up in a ridiculous fashion. The more I think about it (and discuss it with my wife), the less I like this book, because it’s frustrating how half-baked everything is. One final note: can we as readers somehow unite to put a moratorium on “and all this became the book you’ve been reading all along!” twist? I suppose it isn’t a twist, as it says in the description on the inner flap that her daughter compiles all these documents into a book, but it’s a very tired rhetorical trick. Sure, it was hilarious in “Houseguest,” when Sinbad writes a bestselling book that’s published like eight minutes after his wacky misadventures called something like “How to Be a Good Houseguest,” but as we all learn too often in our everyday lives, nothing is as funny as “Houseguest.” And, in retrospect, “Houseguest” is a lot better than this book.
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  • Donna Ho Shing
    September 1, 2016
    What a breath of fresh air this book was. I really enjoyed it though it started to fall flat a little towards the end of the story (ugh, I hate when that happens). Other than that, I certainly recommend it. A light, fun read.
  • Lewis Weinstein
    March 31, 2015
    I did not expect to like this book, but I had to read it, since it is our book club selection this month.Was I ever surprised? It is a delightful read, with just enough tension and emotion, but mainly built on humor, clever writing, an innovative plot, and an ingenious style. Top that with a very moving mother-daughter relationship and a good-natured poke at Microsoft, and this is a definite winner.Anything more I might say would spoil the read. 5*****I can add, however, that Maria Semple is one I did not expect to like this book, but I had to read it, since it is our book club selection this month.Was I ever surprised? It is a delightful read, with just enough tension and emotion, but mainly built on humor, clever writing, an innovative plot, and an ingenious style. Top that with a very moving mother-daughter relationship and a good-natured poke at Microsoft, and this is a definite winner.Anything more I might say would spoil the read. 5*****I can add, however, that Maria Semple is one of the creators of "Mad About You," the re-runs of which we still watch. The maiden name of Helen Hunt's character in that series is Jamie Semple, and there are elements in the craziness and charm of "Bernadette" that are recognizable to us on those old "Mad About You" episodes.
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  • Lisa
    December 1, 2014
    First read, Dec. 2014: I loved this book SO MUCH, it's going to be hard to review it. It's not like any other book I've ever read. I feel like THIS is what a lot of books try to be: quirky, charming, hilarious and apropos of everything in life today. The difference is that this book succeeds in doing all of those things on all levels. It hits every mark across the board. It's a remarkably clever and smart work disguised in a cute, kitschy cloak. This is not fluff, this is substance. Don't let it First read, Dec. 2014: I loved this book SO MUCH, it's going to be hard to review it. It's not like any other book I've ever read. I feel like THIS is what a lot of books try to be: quirky, charming, hilarious and apropos of everything in life today. The difference is that this book succeeds in doing all of those things on all levels. It hits every mark across the board. It's a remarkably clever and smart work disguised in a cute, kitschy cloak. This is not fluff, this is substance. Don't let it fool you.I loved it from the first word to the very last, but my favorite scene was when they sent the birthday card around the rotating restaurant. I won't say more because you really need to experience it for yourself. So, so funny and GREAT.And I need to thank Kandice for this one. This would never have popped up on my radar if not for her. I would have dismissed it as a cute but fluffy book that probably wasn't really my scene. Boy, was I wrong. This is nothing like I had assumed it to be. In a class of its own. What a gem of a book. Long live Bernadette! Oh, and the dog's name is Ice Cream. See? It's just the best.2nd read, April 2015: I fall hard on the "LOVED IT!" side of the opinion when it comes to this polarizing book. This second read made me love it even more, and let me warn you now, there will most definitely be a third, probably around December, but it may be sooner, I can't make any promises (Wow, that's a lot of commas). What can I say about Bernadette? I get Bernadette! I LOVE Bernadette! And you, too, Bee! And you, Elgie. OK, OK, I love you all! Even Soo-lin and Audrey! Come on, you're all in on this group hug!!! I think this book is a riot and super duper clever! I took the audio on my daily constitutionals and I had many a neighbor regard me with not-unkind curiosity when I burst into big, shaking laughter mid-stride on the sidewalk. I had to stop and collect myself when I got to (view spoiler)[Soo-Lin's letter from Ushuaia. I'm being very careful about absolutely anything that can be used against me as a spoiler because one of my reviews got flagged by someone who made a profile for the express purpose of flagging my review! (but I kind of know who it was, oh well) and now it's permanently hidden. Sad, but what can you do? In a weird way, I'm kind of flattered. Ok, back to Bernadette! (hide spoiler)]. I just can't be expected to walk and listen to that. Even though I love this book to high heaven, I get that some people just don't love Bernadette. Okay: really dislike Bernadette. That's okay. I have enough love to go around. And around and around and around! One of my very favorites! 5 stars to Bernadette!
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