By Maria Semple
A compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
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. (Blurb is from Goodreads)
Bernadette Fox had many idiosyncrasies and was too unbelievable to keep my interest. When she disappeared, leaving her teenaged daughter and husband without knowledge of her whereabouts, I totally disliked her, never mind that she had tried and failed. She should have done better.
I know this book has had a lot of rave reviews, but it just fell short for me. I couldn’t abide Bee’s mother and father raising a child in the mess of the house they called home. Plants coming up through the floors, mold in abundance, structural issues are unacceptable for a family who had the know-how and the money to do something about it. Bernadette should have pulled herself together and used her education and resources to correct the major issues. Elgie, her husband, should have put his foot down instead of escaping by working late and pretty much being an absent parent. I had many more issues with this book.
On the positive side, I loved Bee. She did her best in her circumstances, generally more adult than either of her parents. Then there was Audrey. At first, I disliked her, but she showed her true colors in the end and they were beautiful. She saw her own faults for what they were and owned up to them.
If the author intended this book for a younger audience, perhaps 40’s and younger, she probably hit her mark. My book club read Where’d You Go, Bernadette and all of the ladies agreed it is not meant for the older age group.
This honest review reflects my own thoughts and feelings about the book.
Maria Semple is the author of the novels Today Will Be Different (2016), Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) and This One is Mine (2008), all published by Little, Brown and Co. Before writing fiction, she wrote for the TV shows 90210, Mad About You, Arrested Development and others.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, an international bestseller, has been translated into 30 languages. It spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list and made over a dozen year-end best lists. It was short-listed for the Women’s Prize and received the Alex Award from the American Library Association. It’s currently being made into a film starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig and Billy Crudup. Richard Linklater writes and directs. The movie is slated to open in 2018. Today Will Be Different was an instant international bestseller and was featured on the cover of the New York Times book review. It, too, made over a dozen year-end best lists. It’s currently in development with Annapurna pictures as a limited TV series with Maria writing and executive producing.
Maria loves to teach. She’s taught her popular writing workshop at Hugo House and the Cloud Room in Seattle, the Aspen Writers Conference, and Wordstock in Portland.
Maria spent her early years traveling around Europe with her bohemian parents, but that ended abruptly when her father, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., finished a pilot for Batman while living in Torremolinos, Spain. He airmailed it in, they shot it, and the family moved to LA. After the Batman TV series and feature, Lorenzo went on to write a bunch of movies. Once he was established, the family moved to Aspen, Colorado. Maria attended boarding school at Choate Rosemary and college at Barnard, where she majored in English. She moved to LA shortly after graduating Barnard and wrote screenplays which never got made, and TV shows which did. In 2008 Maria, George Meyer and their little daughter moved to Seattle just because. It was a difficult adjustment for Maria, which became the basis for Where’d You Go, Bernadette. The novel came out in 2012 and became an instant bestseller. (Author Bio from Author’s Website)