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Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012)

by Maria Semple

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,6144571,297 (3.92)460
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.… (more)
  1. 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)
  2. 20
    Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (cransell)
    cransell: Two fictional looks at working at Microsoft.
  3. 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)
  4. 10
    This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes (lizchris)
    lizchris: About the madness of west coast America
  5. 10
    Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (kathleen.morrow)
    kathleen.morrow: Similar sharp, witty style of writing
  6. 00
    Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (sturlington)
  7. 00
    Class Mom by Laurie Gelman (drm19)
    drm19: Both are witty and irreverent explorations of competitive motherhood that propel the story forward with emails and narrative.
  8. 00
    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Alliebadger)
    Alliebadger: Each of these are smart, fast reads that make you read between the lines to find the humor. Great books!
  9. 00
    Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (JenMDB)
  10. 00
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (lycomayflower)
  11. 00
    Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell (kiwiflowa)
  12. 11
    The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (cransell)
    cransell: Both quirky, humorous reads.
  13. 01
    Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (kqueue)
    kqueue: Both have a madcap feel where one situation leads to another and spirals out of control.
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» See also 460 mentions

English (454)  Danish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (457)
Showing 1-5 of 454 (next | show all)
Quick, enjoyable, laugh out loud read. Just what I needed this week. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
I got Where’d You Go, Bernadette? in my office’s Secret Santa, from a colleague who knows I like to read. The jacket copy made it sound like generic Busy Wife And Mother fiction, so I had a secret laugh at being perceived as someone who should get a women’s fiction bestseller. I mean, I do like bestsellers, and all the family sagas I LOVE are women’s lit, but I usually feel like an awkward disaster disguised as a responsible adult, especially at work, so being seen as mainstream lady type felt like I’d successfully pulled off my trick.

Well, kinda. This is the story of a woman who ditches her family to hide in Antarctica, a book I started on my flight and then finished in my beachside hut on my solo trip to Hawaii.

This novel starts out being about a Quirky Mom in homogeneous suburbia hellscape, but Bernadette quickly veers from a woman who could not be less interested in school fundraisers or cooking dinners, to a woman whose entire house is falling apart, literally and figuratively. Bernadette goes to the edge of the world, literally and figuratively.

I don’t usually love epistolary novels, because they tend to blend what I dislike in rotating-character POV novels (Are you listening, YA authors? Please stop.) plus what I dislike in unreliable narrators, wrapped up in a gimmicky little box. So I found myself skimming some of the emails, but at least later on Bernadette’s extreme confessions to her assistant and some of the wildest PTA rumors come back in a cleverly over-the-top way, as this totally unpredictable plot comes to a resolution. ( )
  TheFictionAddiction | Aug 12, 2020 |
When was the last time that you planned to take your 15 year old daughter to Antarctica? My guess is of the millions of people that compose the population of LibrayThing and Goodreads…the answer is probably...wait for it...NEVER. Are there even hotels in Antarctica?? Are there non-stop flights taking off from major airports across the country?? The obvious answer to these questions is one of the reasons why this didn’t get more than 2 stars from me. It was completely unbelievable. Maybe it was suppose to be and I completely missed the whole point. The other reason was because these people suffered from a very serious case of being nuttier than a Christmas fruit-cake. There was not a single likable character among them. "Obnoxious" doesn't even begin to describe them. If I thought the mother and daughter were not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier…we meet the father who is busy having an affair with his admin assistant whose resulting pregnancy is brushed under the rug and exalted like it was the next Immaculate Conception. I believe the entire family needs several in-depth sessions with Dr. Phil. Oh…that’s right they’ve already had several session with a "Dr. Phil like" person and the good doctor needs to plan to join them when they go. I don’t know who is responsible for writing the book description but if they think that this is “ a touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world”, they need to get on the plane with the rest of these people. Dr. Phil is going to be a busy, busy man. ( )
  Carol420 | Aug 10, 2020 |
I didn't know what to think of this book as I started. Maybe it was going to be great and keep me engaged, maybe not. But I'm glad I stuck with it after the first several pages. A quirky, odd story that somehow got me wanting to keep turning the pages. I didn't even know the author lives in Seattle and the story was based in Seattle when I first picked up the book at the library. That turned out to be an enjoyable bonus because the author clearly writes from a knowledge of the city. Now I've learned there's possibly a movie version in the works and I'm anxious to learn more. This is not an overly deep read but it is fun and has some thought-provoking themes. I recommend it! ( )
  jjpseattle | Aug 2, 2020 |
I loved this book! It was an easy read, but yet not mindless and predictable. It made me laugh out loud, which is rare for a book to do to me, and I enjoyed the witty writing and offbeat storyline. Definitely recommend as a something different/page turner/cheerful read. ( )
  kateisabella | Aug 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 454 (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
Semple, Mariaprimary 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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Epigraph
Dedication
For Poppy Meyer
First words
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."
Quotations
“Shh! She said. The waiter. He's about to take their order. She leaned back and to her left, closer,closer,closer,her body like a giraffe's neck, until her chair shot out from under her and she landed on the floor. The whole restaurant turned to look. I jumped up to help. She stood up, righted the chair, and started in again. Did you see the tattoo one of them has on the inside of his arm? It looked like a roll of tape.

I took a gulp of margarita and settled into my fallback option, which was to wait her out.

Know what one of the guys at the drive-through Starbucks has on his forearm? Bernadette said. A paper clip! It used to be so daring to get a tattoo. And now people are tattooing office supplies on their bodies. You know what I say? Of course this was rhetorical. I say, dare not to get a tattoo. She turned around again, and gasped. Oh My God. It's not just any roll of tape. It's literally Scotch tape, with the green-and-black plaid. This is too hilarious. If you're going to tattoo tape on your arm, at least make it a generic old-fashioned tape dispenser! What do you think happened? Did the Staples catalogue get delivered to the tattoo parlor that day?” 
― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Our house is old. All day and night it cracks and groans, like it's trying to get comfortable but can't
Chihulys are the pigeons of Seattle. They're everywhere, and even if they don't get in your way, you can't help but build up a kind of antipathy toward them.
Like sick animals, everyone else had retreated into their warrens of misery.
Right before it shut, I caught a glimpse of the poor Japanese people. Nobody had moved. Some hands were frozen in midair, in the middle of doing a fold. It looked like a wax museum diorama of an origami presentation.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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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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