Witty. Heart-warming. Emotional. Hilarious. Frustrating. I cannot find a single adjective that can perfectly describe the book Where’d You Go, Bernadette?. The novel, written by Arrested Development and Mad About You screenwriter Maria Semple, centers around disappearance of Bernadette Fox, an ex-architect, loving mother and wife, and overall nut-case. Bernadette suddenly disappears after a series unfortunate yet amusing events surrounding her family and nosy acquaintances. All before a family trip to Antarctica, of course. This prompts Bernadette’s only daughter, Bee, to begin the search for her mother. And hilarity ensues.
Semple’s style of writing really sets this novel apart from others. The book consists of prose (either through the eyes of Bernadette or Bee) and fictitious emails and letters between many of the characters. Each narrative, email, and letter gives the reader more insight into the mind of Bernadette Fox, how others perceive her, and how Bee is determined to get her mother back—even if it starts to drive the young girl a little mad.
My only slight criticism of the novel is how Seattle-centric it is. Because I have family in Seattle, I’m quite familiar with the town, but I’m sure many readers aren’t. Semple references things like the Seattle Freeze (how cold native Seattle residents are to outsiders), various neighborhoods, how Seattleites dress and act, The Connector (Microsoft’s company buses), and Microsoft itself (and how the people who work there are considered rockstars). But don’t let that deter you from reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette?. Not knowing all the little Seattle quirks does not take away from the story itself.
I’ll be honest, I enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? more than any other book I’ve read this year. It might not be the most intelletectually driven novel I’ve read, but it sure is funny. I devoured this dramedy in just three days and loved every second of it. So, if you’ve had your fill Christmas shopping and celebrations and you need a little downtime, then you ought to pick up a copy of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?. Hopefully you’ll love it as much as I did.