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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012)

by Maria Semple

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,9372571,957 (3.96)325
  1. 20
    Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (cransell)
    cransell: Two fictional looks at working at Microsoft.
  2. 20
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Though Sweetness is more of a traditional mystery, it shares with Where'd You Go, Bernadette an endearing, precocious, and entertaining young narrator who pieces together clues from the adult world to solve a mystery. Character interactions are delightfully, humorously depicted.… (more)
  3. 31
    Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (LBV123)
    LBV123: Rifka Brunt's novel similarly traces a complicated family history and the story of a complicated mother with artistic tendencies, and features an interesting and complicated teenaged narrator. While not as openly chasing the laughs as Semple's novel, Tell the Wolves is nonetheless humorous in its depiction of family politics--and deeply touching as it deals with both love and loss.… (more)
  4. 10
    This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes (lizchris)
    lizchris: About the madness of west coast America
  5. 10
    The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (cransell)
    cransell: Both quirky, humorous reads.
  6. 00
    Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell (kiwiflowa)
  7. 00
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (lycomayflower)

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» See also 325 mentions

English (253)  Danish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (256)
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
Loved this book. No, it wasn't a life changer, but if you're looking for a good easy read for those summer afternoons then this is really a great choice. Great character development and I loved that a large portion of the story was written in letters or other thoughts. ( )
  tipsy_writer | Sep 29, 2015 |
Bernadette Fox is a middle-aged wife and mother who is having so much trouble coping with daily life that she outsources all her errands to a virtual Indian assistant. Her loving husband, Elgin, has made a fortune working for Microsoft but is never home as a result. Her 15-year-old daughter, Bee, is always a source of joy, but the other parents at Bee’s school for gifted children drive Bernadette crazy. As Bernadette struggles with social anxiety, hostile neighbors, a house that’s falling apart, and an unexpected visit from the FBI, things slowly begin to slip through the cracks — until one day she vanishes. Devastated, Bee sets out on a quest to find her mother, compiling all the documentary evidence she can find that might give her a clue to Bernadette’s whereabouts. Bee’s search for her mom eventually takes her as far as Antarctica, and it also gives her a greater understanding of Bernadette’s personality by unearthing secrets from her past.

I was a little nervous to read this book, fearing that it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but luckily there was no need to worry! Normally I would have little patience for someone like Bernadette, who doesn’t seem to realize how priveleged she is, with a loving family and plenty of money. But Bernadette is just self-aware enough to realize the ridiculousness of her behavior, so I was able to look past the more obnoxious aspects of her personality. Also, this book is really funny; I especially enjoyed the e-mail conversations between Audrey and Soo-Lin, two of the other parents at Bee’s school, who both hate Bernadette. I loved the book’s quasi-epistolary format — it’s basically a collection of the documents Bee finds while searching for her mom, with some narration by Bee — and I loved that there was a plausible reason for how Bee obtained all these documents. All in all, this book went much more quickly than I thought it would, and I’d definitely recommend it as a fun vacation read!
1 vote christina_reads | Sep 27, 2015 |
My blog post about this book is at this link. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Sep 1, 2015 |
I'm afraid this pushed all my ick buttons; mentally unstable mother, extremely immature daughter, wildly impossible plot elements to resolve mother/daughter issues, written in letters and e-mails.That being said, I found it kinda compulsively readable and hard to put down. But at the end I was just irritated at the whole premise and hated every single character and the writing style. We'll see what other bookclubbers think.
  amyem58 | Aug 27, 2015 |
This was a curious novel. I have to admit Semple had me wondering what she was about by making all her characters such…characters. That is, there was nothing to hold onto when it came to a center, except perhaps the teen, Bee, (full name Balakrishna, or "divine child"). But just as in days when authors wrote satires that did not contain people so close to how we live now (I am thinking of the 20th Century Russians who were so cruelly censored), this is screamin' crazy satire.

Bernadette is an architect who stopped working when she ran afoul of a neighbor, a wealthy entrepreneur with questionable taste, who tore down a Bernadette house that helped her win a MacArthur Award for ingenuity and resourcefulness. The neighbor did it out of pique. Semple describes for us how this could be. No one comes out looking fair or lovely.

Bernadette worked with materials that would probably be rejected by other architects. They might be used, defective, items of trash, but she gave everything a new life in a work of architectural art. “Bernadette Fox is a very feminine architect. When you walk into Beeber Bifocal, you’re overwhelmed by the care and the patience that was put into it. It’s like walking into a big hug.”
I know the kind of mindset and patience it takes to create art from what others would term “nothing.” So I get where she is coming from. Where I got confused was her outsized sense of rightness and privilege. At one point she told her daughter who that boredom is something she needed to fix by herself. Then she falls for the same trap, later telling her daughter “the banality of life” can sometimes be overwhelming. Bernadette forgets sometimes that she is not the font of all wisdom. I guess the point is that there is movement in this book. Characters have moments of crisis, and must resolve them in order to continue living.

But truthfully, I almost didn’t get to the end of this novel. It was amusing at first, until it began to chafe. There is nothing wrong with having a moral point in a novel, but we were clobbered with this one. Everyone had some schtick that made them hard to take, except Bee, and she had learned from her parents, so a few times was a little harsher than she needed to be while pushing her own point of view. Was this Semple’s point? That adults can be jerks, and children will get there someday? Clever, but I could have done without the sarcasm.

This book had been recommended to me, so it has been on my list. When I found an audiofile available, I grabbed it. Usually I also order the hard copy to clarify points when I want to write a review. My library, however, had all their numerous copies out for YA “summer reading.” Interesting. I would never have chosen this title for high school summer reading. If the kids get to the end, when everybody starts to realize they need each other in order to be whole, they have spent many hours immersed in severe dysfunctional behaviors. I’m not at all sure we need to confirm their suspicions that adults are creeps, considering how far the teens have to go before they are perfect.

Anyway, I did finish. Semple is tough. At this point in the review I realize that Semple may be writing for teens after all. I still wouldn’t have chosen this title for summer reading. I would choose something that gives glamour to language. But there you have it. I’m not the font of all wisdom, either.
( )
1 vote bowedbookshelf | Aug 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
The book stumbles a bit in the middle as it transitions from a scathing anti-Seattle manifesto into a family drama with comic undertones. But once the gears have finished their grinding and the shuddering subsides, Semple eases into her strongest work yet, allowing her characters to change in a way that suits the story, and not just shooting for an easy punch line or a sharply worded barb. In the end, with its big heart set on acceptance, Bernadette feels something like coming home.
added by Nickelini | editthe Stranger, Paul Constant (Aug 12, 2012)
The tightly constructed “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is written in many formats — e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.
added by ozzer | editNY Times, Janet Maslin (Aug 6, 2012)
Semple is a TV comedy writer, and the pleasures of Where'd You Go, Bernadette are the pleasures of the best American TV: plot, wit and heart. (There are places where Semple really wants to be writing dialogue, and stretches the epistolary conceit of the novel to suit.) It's rather refreshing to find a female misunderstood genius at the heart of a book, and a mother-daughter relationship characterised by unadulterated mutual affection. If Bernadette is a monster of ego, Semple suggests, so are most people, when they're being honest. In her spiky but essentially feelgood universe, failure and self-exposure open up a rich seam of comedy, but shame can always be vanquished by love

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maria Sempleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Broeder, LindaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chichereau, CarineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Vicq, Fearn CutlerDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayes, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leiva Morales, ÁngelesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilhoite, KathleenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Xie, JingwenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Monday, November 15: Galer Street School is a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.
The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, "What's most important is for you to understand it's not your fault."
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When Bee aces her report card she claims her reward, which is a trip to Antarctica, but her mother, Bernadette, disappears due to her intensifying allergy to Seattle and people in general, which has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands and Bee uses emails, invoices, school memos, private correspondence, and other evidence to try and understand why her mother has left.
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When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her.

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