Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Maria Semple
Published: August 14, 2012
ISBN: 9780316204279
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (Book Club Selection)

You might enjoy this book if you like: Sit coms, Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, books from a teenaged girl's point of view, Seattle-ish things

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:
When I first said I was reading this book, I received a cavalcade of, "Oh, I just loved that book" from people.  But, in the midst of that, there was one person who said they enjoyed it, but they really had to suspend their disbelief.  I have that person to thank for me actually finishing this book.  I'm afraid that, if I hadn't known that I had to give up on reality or this one, there would be no way I could finish it.

Don't get me wrong, I did think this book was entertaining and there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, but it can be, at times, just too much.  The entire book had sort of a set up-laugh-recover feel that I tend to experience when watching sit coms on television (this isn't surprising as the author was a sit com writer)..  This isn't a bad thing, as it keeps the flow of the story going from scene to scene and provides a pretty stable rate for the narrative.  However, it is hard to sustain this throughout the entire book, at least not a book of this length.

This book is also mostly an epistolary novel.  I don't mind that, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea.  I don't write that to knock the book, but I think it might be something to think about if you are considering this book.  Personally, I liked the epistolary style as it was an effective method of controlling what information the read would have and when they would have it.  I think, if you went into this book knowing everything, it just wouldn't work.

I will say this, I wasn't overly fond of any of the characters in this book.  Most were a bit, well, too cartoon-ish for me to take seriously, but I wish that I would have been able to feel more empathy with Bernadette, Elgin, and Bee.  It's not that I actively disliked them--it was just that I couldn't ever conjure up any real feelings for them.  They were just sort of there.

Then, there was the last 25-30% of the book.  This is where you need to hang up reality and just go with it.  Frankly, it doesn't make a lot of sense and, if you think about it, it all falls apart.  It's a bit ridiculous and unbelievable, but it does fit into the fabric of the book so I can't just write it off.  But...still....if I hadn't been warned, I would no have been able to finish this book.

Am I glad I read this?  Well, yes...as I said, I was entertained by it.  I was also completely exhausted by the time I finished, thanks to the sort of frenetic energy of it.  I would probably recommend this book to some people--people who I think could handle the sort of unique demands it makes.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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