March 18, 2013

Kick the Sh*t Out of Life

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Release Date: August 2012
Publisher: Hachette | Little, Brown
Pages: 326 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Amazon)
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.

Thoughts on Where'd You Go, Bernadette
After seeing a rave review of this book that Beth (from Bookworm Meets Bookworm) wrote for Sadie Magazine, I was so excited when I spotted the book on the New Arrivals shelf at my library. From the minute I started this book, I knew I was going to be hooked. You know when you read a book that just feels so refreshing and different from anything you've read before? That's what happened to me with Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

The first three quarters of this book is told in epistolary form. Bernadette Fox has disappeared, and now her fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee, is searching for her. You get to see her piecing together the clues through emails, doctors' bills, school correspondence, etc. It's all the research that leads up to the last quarter of the book where it switches to Bee's actual journey to find her mother.

Bernadette was an architect who fled to Seattle when her masterpiece completely and utterly failed. She is believed to be a genius, but her heartbreak over the past has caused her to completely pull away from society. She rarely interacts with people, and she hires a virtual assistant in India to help her complete the tasks of her daily life. Her husband, Elgie, works at Microsoft and indulges her strange ways by allowing her to do as she pleases.

Part of the joy of this book is the way you see all the pieces falling into place - culminating in Bernadette's disappearance. From busybodies at Bee's school to Elgie's fear that Bernadette needs an intervention, the satire is rich in this book. I loved how Semple slyly pokes fun at things, and I found myself laughing many times while reading. I thought Bee was a really well-written teenager. She's smart and trying oh so hard to find the most important woman in her life. I loved Semple's focus on mother-daughter relationships, which was absolutely one of my favorite things about this read.

It's a little peculiar at times, but I couldn't put it down! It's not something I would typically gravitate towards, although I do love the cover, so I'm really glad Beth got me interested in it with her review. She did a much better job at highlighting the book's strengths, so I'd definitely encourage you to read her review. All I can say is that I laughed at Semple's wacky characters, but I was also moved by several of the more serious moments in this book. I absolutely adored spending my afternoon with these characters and this search for a missing woman. Who knew disappearances and mysteries could be so funny and entertaining? If you're looking for something a little different, I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.

So Quotable
"My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I'm going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I'm about to kick the shit out of life."

15 comments:

  1. I've been itching to try this one for a while. So glad you liked it.

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  2. You're right -- the cover is great! Definitely something I'm interested in ... even though I don't read tons of Adult books. I love a good puzzle and I think I'd really enjoy HOW this book was written. :)

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    1. An extra bonus is that one of the main characters is a young adult! So it will still be somewhat familiar :)

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  3. I love that quote! I have this one at home and have been meaning to read it, but I'm afraid it's going to be another Goon Squad that just doesn't cut it for me.

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    1. I loved that quote so much! Definitely one of my favorite lines in the book :)

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  4. This cover looks so cool! I've never heard of this book before, but it does sound like a quirky, interesting read. I'd definitely like to give this one a try :)

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    1. Yay! Love me some quirky books :) Hope you enjoy if you end up reading it!

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  5. I have to admit that the cover just doesn't reel me in but in reading about it and other Goodreads reviews, it sounds like a really fun book that might be just what I need. Sometimes satire can be so fun. Also, I've never seen this book before so I never would've found it had I not seen it on this blog of yours, lady! You damage my TBR on a constant basis and I love it. <3

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    1. Oh lady, I'm so happy that I get to damage your TBR. I'm sorry, but it's true! It is a really fun read - and so quick too! It was such a nice break from what I typically read :) Hope you enjoy if you get it from the library! (Which you should totally do)

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    2. I got really excited a couple of days ago to see that one of my libraries has this in print and the other has this in audiobook format! I think you know that *might* mean for me.

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  6. I read this fairly recently and have a review scheduled to be posted this month, but I haven't really found other reviews of it before reading yours. I agree that it's definitely a different sort of book, and something I also would never have picked up if I didn't read it for a book club. The snark and black humor was definitely the best part of this book, which is, I suppose, why I ended up enjoying the first 3/4 a bit more than the last bit narrated simply by Bee.

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    1. I'll definitely have to check out your review! I also haven't seen many reviews for this book. Agree on the snark and black humor being the best part! I still enjoyed the last 1/4 of the book, but I can see how it could be a little bit of a letdown with all the buildup from the first 3/4.

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  7. I've heard such good things about this one - but you sell me completely with how much you loved it and experiencing all the pieces falling into place withing a quirky yet delightfully rad novel.

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    1. Yes yes yes! I love selling people completely on a book :)

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