Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go Bernadette

Where’d You Go. Bernadette
By Maria Semple
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316204279, July 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Funny, sweet and a little sad but oh so rewarding to read.

The Rest of It:

Everyone has read this book, I know. Except, I never read books when everyone else is reading them so it’s no surprise that I am writing about it now when most of the world has already discovered this gem. But on the off-chance that there is someone who hasn’t read it, then… well, you must read it.

Bernadette Fox falls into the “eccentric” category. She’s married to a man who spends most of his hours at work, Microsoft to be exact and her home, far from traditional, is a sore point to many of the Seattle moms that live near her. She doesn’t participate in any of the school activities and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee is perfectly okay with that. But Bernadette is more than a little different. Once a famous architect, she has become somewhat of a recluse by choosing to hang out in the camper she’s set-up in her yard just for that purpose.

Deep down, she knows that she’s missing out on what life has to offer, but with her personal assistant, who is supposedly from India, she manages to live this life, restricted as it is. When she needs something, she just sends an email and it’s taken care of. What she can’t figure out, is how to get out of a family trip to Antarctica. At Bee’s request, they’ve planned a vacation of a lifetime but when things at home spiral out of control, Bernadette goes missing.

This is one of those crazy books that you can’t help but love. Bernadette is way, way out there but when she goes missing, you see the true effect she has on the people surrounding her. Bee, loves her mother unconditionally and finds herself frustrated with her father’s lack of urgency over the situation. As Bee attempts to find her, I began to really see who Bernadette was and how she lost her sense of self over the years.

At this point of the story, I was heartbroken over Bee’s loss. As a reader, you just don’t know what to think. I listened to some of the story on audio and it was heart wrenching! Both the book and the audio are filled with emotional moments, but also some very funny ones which is what keeps it light. But don’t let the playful cover fool you, there are some serious themes here. Bernadette’s sense of isolation, her inability to see herself as a person, depression and her marriage which is clearly in need of some help, all manage to make this a book of substance. This would make a fabulous book club pick as there is a lot to talk about.

I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the characters as well. Bee, will always have a special place in my heart, as will Bernadette. They are both so complex but at the same time, so likable. Every minute that I spent with this book was a minute well-spent.

Have you read it?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

41 thoughts on “Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

  1. Like you, I don’t normally read books when everyone else is because I’m worried I’ll let their reviews sway me. However, I’ve been wanting to read this one since it came out (the cover is adorable). What an idea to live in your camper and just email your assistant when you want something done! Interesting and sad, and now I need to know all about Bee and Bernadette.

  2. I loved this book, it was such a fun, rollicking read but also incredibly moving. The satire was pretty sharp too. I believe Semple used to be a writer on Arrested Development and you can tell!

    1. It really was moving, wasn’t it? From what everyone had said, I knew it was going to be a fun read but I didn’t expect  to be so taken with Bee’s love for her mother. So she was a writer for Arrested Development? I had no idea!

    1. Bee came across a little young on the audio. She was supposed to be 15 and she didn’t sound 15 to me, but I loved the reading overall. Very passionate in the interpretation. 


    1. This is a great one to giveaway. You picked a good one. I could literally see that mud slide happening before my eyes 😉


  3. I didn’t love it as much as you did. I found the absurd part of it kind of tiresome after a while. But I know I am in the minority on this one.

    1. I loved Bee. Bernadette irritated me in the beginning until I knew her story and understood her struggles. 


  4. I’m with you, Ti, completely. “This is one of those crazy books that you can’t help but love.” At least, I couldn’t…I don’t know if it just hit at the right time, but it’s just what I needed: a little humor and at times a lot of humor.

    1. I love humor, but I really love smart humor and to me, this was a little more on the sophisticated side of funny and at the same time, layered with a bit of depth. 


  5. I haven’t read it yet. It’s one I always pick up and put back down. Based on this review I’m going to add it back to my list.

    1. I know. I picked it up many times and kept putting it down. The cover is cute but it makes it look like chick-lit to me. It’s not that.  Not at all. 


  6. Yay! So glad you enjoyed this book – it was one of my faves last year. And you are so right – the book is crazy, but you can’t help but love it. Great post!

    1. I didn’t care for Seattle the first time I visited but this book made me want to give it another try. I have so many friends who live on Bainbridge so  it was nice to recognize some sights. 


  7. I’m a lot like you in the sense that I don’t read books when everyone else reads them. I’m a bit of a rogue when it comes to that. I don’t like going along with the masses.

    That said, I’ve caught myself staring at this book EVERYTIME I pass it in the bookstore. From the sound of it, it looks like a wonderful examination of the profound importance of mothers in our lives, and as mothers, the need for a sense of self outside of the usual family structure. From your review I see a lot of myself in Bee; I love my mother DEARLY and would crumble if she disappeared. I’m thinking about picking it up from the library. It sounds like something I’ll drown with pleasure in.

    1.  You need to get this book! I think you will appreciate it for the mother daughter connection. You might get a little mad at the mom at one point, but her actions are later explained. Not  a spoiler but a warning. 


  8. Oh I MUST take the plunge (still haven’t read it but have it.)

    Ti, I am feeling the same way about a Jojo Moyes book: “Me before You” –everyone has raved about it and I am 1/2 way through and understanding what they mean — it’s so good. (You must add that one too your list).

    1. Me Before You is another of those books that I have put off. I plan to read it this year for sure. My book club almost picked it  but it was pitched as a romance and it tanked fast once it was pegged as that. 


  9. Kathy sent me the audio of this one, and I adored it. And OMG the narration was fantastic. I have been sharing the audio with everyone I know. I’m pretty excited about the movie.

    1. I wasn’t aware of the movie. Who do you see as Bernadette? Bee? 

      Oh, the audio was precious. My only complaint is that Bee comes across a little young on audio. She’s supposed to be 15 but she sounds like she is 10.


  10. I LOVE that you loved this. I thought the narration was out of this world. Bee is one of the best characters ever. So vibrant and alive and adult but still very much a child. I just adored her and the story.

  11. I don’t read books when they’re being hyped–I usually wait until after the second wave because then the truth about them starts coming out. 😉 I haven’t read this one but I really want to–especially on audio. I love books with characters that really stick with you.

  12. I listened it this one last year and then promptly forgot to write a review. I’d have to listen to it again to do that with my memory. I do know I loved the book and the audio was great.

    1. The audio was wonderful. I need to go back and see who the readers were. I am so bad at doing that and yet, I have  totally ditched some audio books because the reader’s voice annoyed me. I need to focus more on the good ones. 


    1. It did! When I finished it, I got to thinking how if ALL books were as good as Bernadette, I’d be a happy camper. 


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