Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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

This book was described as humorous, so when it was one of the World Book Night choices available to me last year, I grabbed the audiobook. I finally decided to give it a go.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is the story of (obviously) Bernadette, but also her 15 year old daughter Bee. Bernadette is a bit of a recluse, never liking living in Seattle or any of the inhabitants there. Before Bee's birth, Bernadette and Elgin (her husband) move with Microsoft to Seattle from Los Angeles after an embarrassing upset to Bernadette's architecture career. Bee was born with many heart problems leading to years of surgeries, but as a teenager she feels that she is completely fine now and people should stop treating her as fragile. Bee is incredibly smart for her age and attends a fancy private school in the area. The story really kicks off when Bee comes home announcing that she has received all As for her entire middle school career, and what she wants most for her achievement is to go on a family trip to Antarctica. Her parents agree. Hating dealing with people and making arrangements for such a trip, Bernadette highers a virtual personal assistant from New Delhi and communicates with them through email. At the same time, the school Bee attends is ready to host a prospective student brunch at Bernadette's neighbor's house, causing the neighbor to kick into crazy mode to get her yard up to snuff for the snooty rich parents she will be hosting. Bernadette's property is covered in blackberries that are encroaching on to the neighbor's lawn, causing the neighbor to demand that Bernadette pay for removal of them. The neighbor arranges a man, and Bernadette pays for the work. Then during the brunch, a massive rainstorm causes a mudslide down the hill, filling the neighbor's house with mud. Other evidence makes Elgin think Bernadette is legitimately crazy, causing him to seek the help of a mental health facility in the area. When Bernadette finds out her husband is trying to lock her up, she disappears, leaving Bee distraught and determined to find her.

I'm sure my synopsis of the story doesn't make it sound very humorous, but I can say it definitely is :) The story really highlights how ridiculous some of the other people become and how that affects the main characters. Bernadette comes across as very similar to myself - not really enjoying close contact with lots of people that she is thrown in social situations with, and not so interested in even the most basic interactions when she can avoid it. In Bernadette's case, it leads to FBI involvement, but I don't want to ruin the surprise by explaining further. I really enjoyed the randomness of this story mixed with the the humor of mundane everyday life. The plot is all over the place, but it still blends things together in a slightly believable way. I enjoyed listening to this very much, and I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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