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

13526165Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: August 14th, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Point of View: 1st Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 14+
Pacing: Normal
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fiction, Contemporary, (Mild) Mystery, Family

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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.


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.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

  1. Pingback: Book Reviews | SVM & TB Stories

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