Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette / by Madeleine


Where'd You Go, Bernadette is the story of fifteen-year-old Bee and her eccentric mother, Bernadette. Bee achieves perfect grades in school and claims as her reward a family trip to Antarctica. She's been studying it all year and is eager to see the vast white plains in person. Her mother agrees to the trip but realizes that such an adventure means leaving her house, a feat that she's rarely achieved since moving to Seattle. Bernadette is not like other moms; she has a virtual assistant in India run all of her errands and is uninterested in the PTA politics of her fellow private-school mothers. As the trip draws closer and Bernadette approaches a mental meltdown, the family dynamic begins to change and suddenly, Bee finds herself with a mom that's MIA. Told through e-mails, faxes, letters, and the perspective of Bee, this novel brings together themes of family, identity, and accepting people regardless of their quirks.

I loved this book. It was so different than I expected and kept me laughing until the last page. The characters were perfectly crafted, the plot ridiculous and yet all of it was so believable. Maria Semple did an especially good job capturing the voice of each character through their different mediums: the PTA moms' gossipy interchanges via e-mail, the fed-up school administrator via memos, and Bernadette through her rambling e-mails to her virtual assistant. Bee's voice was especially strong and I applaud Semple for nailing the adolescent point of view in all of this chaos. This would be a great bookclub read and one that I hope to pass around to friends and family to hear more feedback. The idea that a person can have a literal meltdown and come out of it with a new direction and a new sense of purpose is the best part of this read. It left me feeling empowered, knowing that whatever happens, I can always face it with all of the grace and humor of Bernadette. Not to mention, the cover is perfect and it happened to match my nail polish color the day it arrived in the mail (it's the little things in life). 

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

  • Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
  • Author: Maria Semple
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown and Company, 2012
  • Price: $9 on Amazon
  • ISBN: 9780316204262
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Amazon