Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown.

After a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces — which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is one of the funniest books I’ve read. It has all the makings of an adventure tale but weaves a deeper story through the eyes of Bee. She’s easy to relate to despite being half my age and very different from who I was as a kid. I’d draw a comparison to Bee’s narration and To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Scout; though To Kill a Mockingbird is a lot higher on my list of favorite books.

I do love how Semple incorporates serious lessons in a story that is more funny than insightful. Bernadette’s mental health and the challenges that uprooted families go through is entirely real and well expressed. The politics of wealthy schools and helicopter moms is genuine too and its that authenticity that makes Where’d You Go, Bernadette? a worthwhile read.

Semple toes a line between writing a story that is honest and fantastic – not an easy feat! Though it’s really her humor that makes the otherwise unrealistic points of the story come to life. I definitely understand where the book gets its over-rated reputation but it’s one I enjoyed and I think many others would enjoy it too.

Photo and synopsis from goodreads.com

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