Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette, rating 2.75/5, fiction, 336 pages, pub, 2012

I accepted this for review because I enjoyed Semple’s first book and she was gracious enough to let me ask her a few questions a few years ago here on the blog.  I read nothing but positive things about it from other bloggers and it’s even up for a best book award at Goodreads.  So, it was bound to be a disappointment, right? Unfortunately, it was.

Bernadette, a reknowned architect, has been stuck in suburban Seattle hell for almost 20 years and her husband mentally checked out of her wacky ways way back as he focused on his very important job at Microsoft.  Bee, their daughter, never felt neglected or unloved so the parents were successful in raising a daughter with a bright future.  The story focuses on where Bernadette had disappeared to, but this doesn’t really happen until the last third of the book.

It was an epistolary novel, mostly.  There were chunks thrown in from Bee, especially at the end, that broke up that narrative in a less than positive way.  I liked the emails, police reports, newspaper articles, FBI reports, text messages that made up the story of Bernadette’s disappearance, but until the very last few pages I never cared about Bernadette or her husband Elgin. At the very end I appreciated Bernadette’s journey, but getting there was a journey I wouldn’t take again. Bee, was a sympathetic character but not one I connected with.

There were exotic locales, Antarctica playing a big role in most of the book, and plenty of laughable/hateful characters depicting the wealthy suburbanites I am all too familiar with so I think this could be a great movie.  The characters often felt like caricatures that could definitely work on the big screen, but for me I found them a bit too whiny on the page.

I was hoping to be entertained, but I grew bored early on and didn’t care at all until the crazy end.  What happened to Bernadette?  It’s a doozy.  I know I’m in the minority for not really liking this one and I’m okay with that.

I want to thank Anna at Little Brown for sending me a copy of the book 🙂