Thursday, April 11, 2013


Where'd You Go Bernadette?, Maria Semple, Little Brown and Company, 2012, 221 pp
A Tournament of Books contender recommended by a friend whose tastes often parallel mine, this is an easy entertaining read that makes humor out of many contemporary foibles but has the offbeat Bernadette, who keeps it from being trite.
The story takes place in Seattle with side trips to LA and Antarctica. Bernadette, who used to be one of only a few famous female architects, suffered a "big, bad thing." She and her Microsoft genius husband are raising a daughter in an odd decrepit "home" that used to be an asylum for disturbed girls. Bernadette is not as bad a mother as the one in The Glass Castle, but I kept thinking of that deranged artist as I read. Bee, the daughter, is precocious and self-sufficient; not surprising given the parents.

I had fun reading it but it faded fast from my memory. Maria Semple has been a successful screenwriter which explains to me why reading her book felt like watching a movie. I don't usually remember movies unless they have a huge impact on me.

The use of documents (emails, faxes, letters, articles, journal entries) is I guess a modern version of the epistolary novel. Semple does it well but it felt somewhat precious or contrived to me.

Actually I liked Bernadette and was kept engaged as her story revealed why she ran away but I felt bad for Bee. She deserved better parents. I suppose most kids do.

To summarized this disjointed review, I had mixed feelings.

(Where'd You Go Bernadette? is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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