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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
4,6553881,495 (3.93)410
  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
    Young Jane Young: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin (kathleen.morrow)
    kathleen.morrow: Similar sharp, witty style of writing
  6. 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!
  7. 00
    Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (JenMDB)
  8. 00
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (lycomayflower)
  9. 11
    The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (cransell)
    cransell: Both quirky, humorous reads.
  10. 00
    Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell (kiwiflowa)

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» See also 410 mentions

English (384)  Danish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (387)
Showing 1-5 of 384 (next | show all)
When I started reading the book, I was initially reminded of Bridget Jones' Diary... not because of the content but the epistolary nature and the writing style. But, as I read further I realized that the plot is nothing like that.

As the title suggests, it's a mystery about Bernadette and her whereabouts but it's not dark or depressing, rather it is delightfully funny (not Laugh Out Loud funny but smart & witty funny). I love how Semple uses different characters and their POV's to peel layer after layer to reveal the true story... and how in the end, the different perspectives come together to form a coherent narrative. I absolutely loved the endearing relationship between Bernadette and her daughter Bee a.k.a Balakrishna (She is named that, no, seriously!). To be honest, some bits of the story did seem a bit far-fetched (especially, the part about Manjula and the FBI) and it did seem to be hurriedly concluded, but it is a good light read. For me, the plot could be summed up (somewhat) in these lines from the novel itself - “People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” Well, how true! ( )
  Megha17 | Jan 17, 2019 |
Bernadette Fox - a McArthur award winning architect has moved with her family to Seattle. They own an old girl's school that they always planned to fix up, but never got around to it. Bernadette is an introvert genius who doesn't like to be around people. Most of all, she despises the mothers (she calls gnats) at her 15 year old daughter's private school. Her husband is a Microsoft big wig and the complete opposite of Bernadette.

Their daughter gets into a prestigious boarding school, and as a present, she asks her parents to take her to Antarctica. They agree, but as the trip nears, Bernadette starts to panic about being on a boat with people she doesn't know. She enlists the help of an online assistant to help her book the trip and do errands for her.

Then one day, Bernadette disappears without a trace. It is right before the family was supposed to go to Antarctica. Her daughter, Bee, begins to try and piece together where her mother went, and figure out who her mother was.

This was a good, but strange book. All the characters are a bit strange, and some very unlikable. (although they are supposed to be unlikable). Bernadette - the strangest of all - is a big of a rambler, and it is hard to follow the dialogue sometimes. The book is a series of emails, letters, and correspondence among the characters, which is a unique set up. It is a bit of comic satire, and I did chuckle at some of the dialogue. The ending is a bit long and drawn out with a letter from Bernadette to her daughter.

I think I can recommend this book. It is eccentric and you might find yourself shaking your head at the characters, but it is entertaining enough not to miss. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
Light read, interesting style. Many voices - I listened on tape so it highlighted personalities well. ( )
  gpratt | Dec 29, 2018 |
This books gets an awful lot of hype. I’ve had it on hold for the audiobook at the library for almost a year, so I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people are still reading it. I was excited when this finally became available because I was dying to see what all the hype was about.

I gotta be honest, I didn’t love it?

There were moments that is was alright. I actually didn’t mind Bernadette as a character, and I thought some of her correspondences were interesting. I particularly liked the email from Bernadette to her old professor. But a lot of the rest of the stuff got me really frustrated. I’m one of those readers who doesn’t love too much drama in her books? There were scenes where characters were just angrily going off on on another which I actually found a little stressful.

So all that said – the stuff I didn’t like isn’t the type of thing that will bother most people. The characters are varied and interesting, with secrets and layers and twists in their personalities. Audrey Griffin was a bit of an unexpected character in the mix, and I ended up liking her a little bit more at the end, even though she infuriated me at the beginning. The family dynamic here – in all the families presented – was very messy and uncomfortable, and all the relationships a bit rocky. The characters kept me listening more than anything else, because you needed to know what fresh hell they were going to create next.

This book is written as a narrative by Bea, Bernadette’s daughter, and is intertwined with a bunch of letters, emails, invoices, and other paperwork that she uses as a trail to try and find her mother. The result of her doing this is a bit academically catastrophic for Bea, but it tells a good story and isn’t too interrupting. You get the impression early on that a lot of the voices coming and going will be one-offs, so it’s not too difficult to remember the real who’s who. Additionally, if you’re an audiobook person, I felt that Kathleen Wilhoite did an excellent job in her reading.

And then, after all that, I have to confess: it was a masterful ending. Most of the book felt like a complete mess, but I adored the final chapter.

The setting is immersive and the plot was a page-turner. While I didn’t fall in love with this book the way so many other people did, I can see why it’s so popular, and it’s definitely worth a read. And for those who don’t already know, there’s a film slated for early 2019 starring Cate Blanchette (who I love) so read it now before the movie comes out! ( )
  Morteana | Nov 28, 2018 |
I listened to this one, and it was fabulous. Kudos to the narrator for making a fun read even better. ( )
  LMJenkins | Nov 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 384 (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 editionscalculated
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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For Poppy Meyer
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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."
“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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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. Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she is a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she is a disgrace; to design mavens, she is 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 e-mail messages, official documents, secret correspondence, creating a touching novel about a family coming to terms with who they are, and the power of a daughter's love for her imperfect mother.… (more)

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