“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple was a rollercoaster of a book. There were so many different things going on at once: from the characters to the evolving plot to the fun way in which the book was written. I absolutely devoured this book.
The story is told from several different perspectives. There is Bernadette, a former architect and stay-at-home mom who is on the verge of a breakdown. There is Bee, the daughter of Bernadette and Elgie that we learn has a heart condition and almost died as a baby. Elgie, the semi-clueless and very exasperated husband and father. Then there are also the ‘gnats’ – Aubrey and Soo-Lin, mother’s at the same school that Bee go to with nothing better to do with their time than over achieve on everything related to their kids and school – at least from Bernadette’s perspective.
I liked Bernadette in a lot of ways. She was really funny, between her sarcasm and her perspective on life, I couldn’t help giggling while I was reading. But there were a lot of flaws to her as well. After finding out what the Huge Hideous Thing was, you can understand a bit better why Bernadette has isolated herself from other people only interacting with her husband and daughter. But the more that is revealed about the complete disrepair of her home and how she did nothing to stop the problems, I couldn’t understand her behavior. Maybe if it was just her – but she had a family. She’s a mom, and she let the Huge Hideous Thing overwhelm her life. Despite all that Bernadette doesn’t do, Bee turned out to be amazing.
Bee was a great character. She had a significant portion of her mother’s personality and humor. When interacting with one of the gnats, I just burst out laughing, ““I could never send Kyle to boarding school,” Audrey said. / “I guess you love Kyle more than my mom loves me,” I said, and played my flute as I skipped down the hall.” (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, pg 48). Little quips like this made Bee such a likeable character.
The biggest offending gnat, Audrey, was someone that you just wanted to shake. I’m sure that I’m going to find myself interacting with an Audrey at some point. That kind of person that has a very clear-cut idea of what a parent should be doing and those that do not follow her specific rules to the T are harshly judged. She certainly made for an interesting antagonist.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – I loved it. I think that Maria Semple successfully developed interesting characters, and combined with the unique plot, I fully understand why this book was so popular. It’s a great read and I hope Semple continues to produce work as amazing as “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”.