Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple)

20130430-132958.jpgA friend of a friend recommended this book, and I’m so glad she did! What a fun and playful read Maria Semple’s novel turned out to be!

Part of the joy of this book is the way the story is told. The young protagonist and narrator, Bee, compiles a host of documents (emails, handwritten notes, report cards, police reports, etc.) through which she tells the story of her mother, famed former-architect Bernadette Fox. It’s one of those books you really can’t put down (even when it’s 2:00 in the morning and you know you have to get up early).

The characters are weird in the most delightful ways!

It’s a funny and touching story that levels a serious commentary at all manner of people and habits: Seattle’s elite, overbearing parents, techies, junior high kids, etc. In the end, Semple delivers a conclusion that is simultaneously satisfying and open-ended. [ALERT: Plot spoilers ahead!] You’re left wondering what will happen to Elgie’s unborn love child, whether or not Bernadette will go on to create 14 other miracles (or 13, in light of where we leave her at the end), what happens to Bee, and what kind of house they will end up living in. In other words, it gives you enough that you don’t feel abandoned at the end, but leaves you with something to think about and wonder over.

GOOD FOR:  people who’ve lived in Seattle and would enjoy poking fun at some of its ways, anyone who loves a good mystery, and those seeking a quirky read.

BAD FOR:  readers who dislike narratives told primarily through “secondary” documents, fans of the neat-and-tidy ending, and anyone hoping to avoid an adventure (because this book really makes you want to have one!).

GOOD WITH: The Family Fang, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.


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