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

Where’d You Go, Bernadette was written by Maria Semple and published in 2012.

Synopsis

MacArthur Genius recipient and architectural phenom, Bernadette, escapes from L.A. with her husband Elgin to start a new life and family in Seattle. Fifteen to twenty years later, they have a ridiculously smart daughter, Bee, live in a crumbling building that used to be a school for wayward girls, and are planning a trip to Antarctica as a reward for Bee’s perfect grades. Combine Elgin’s high pressure job at Microsoft with Bernadette’s agoraphobia, general dislike of people, and feuds with the mothers of Bee’s classmates and it’s only a matter of time before the family unravels.

Reasons to Read

It’s funny. It makes fun of overly involved parents. It makes fun of Microsoft and Seattle. Bernadette is a great character. The book is pieced together through correspondence and told from Bee’s perspective. Minor characters are not forgotten, but change and develop as integral parts of the story. Virtual Internet assistants from India. The writing is accessible. It’s a bit of a mystery. Antarctica. Did I mention it’s funny?

Reasons to Skip

You work at Microsoft and can’t take a joke about Seattle. Fiction that falls out of the traditional form of narrative bothers you. You can’t handle characters who do despicable things or break social norms. You’re tired of super smart narrators who are children or teenagers.

You Might Also Like

I’m stumped. I haven’t read many books like this, so if you have some suggestions, please add them to the comments below.

What To Wear While Reading

Dark glasses, scarf, fishing vest, and a pair of Keens.

Food and Drink Pairing

Chinese takeout, dark & stormy, followed by a Xanax.

If Charles Baxter Wrote This Book

It would take place in Michigan. Elgin would be a math teacher and Bernadette wouldn’t have been awarded a MacArthur Genius grant. There would be absolutely no talk of Bee attending a boarding school like Choate.

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