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 🙂

15 thoughts on “Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

  1. Thoughts of Joy says:

    Hmmm. I was encouraged to read this when it first came out, so I checked it out from the library, but had to return it unread. Even though I’m not a fan of chick-lit, I thought I would enjoy it because of the epistolary format. So sad to see it wasn’t a winner for you. Characters as caricatures doesn’t work for me either.

  2. Lloyd Russell says:

    It’s hard to rate a book as mediocre when you have a personal connection to the author – even a remote one. I’m posting a review this weekend of a book that I liked – but not a lot. She’s a local author, and I hoped to really like it so I could email her and tell her to read the blog post. But we bloggers have to maintain our integrity, even when it’s difficult and unpopular. Good for you.

  3. boardinginmyforties says:

    Sorry to hear you didn’t like it more. That’s always a bummer when you have high expectations and the book just doesn’t live up to them!

  4. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    So refreshing to read a review from someone who didn’t love this one. I’m not sure if I will ever read this one or not but I really took note of what didn’t work for you and can imagine myself having the same issues.

  5. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea says:

    Just got the audio from the library; hope I like it more than you.

    Sorry I haven’t been able to comment much as I’ve really been busy and sadly putting minimal effort into blogging. Hope you are enjoying your day, give Gage an extra hug from his blogger fans.

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