Summary and book reviews of Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

A Novel

by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple X
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2013, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

A compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

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.

Excerpt
Where'd You Go, Bernadette

That night at dinner, I sat through Mom and Dad's "We're-so proud-of-you's and "She's-a-smart-one's until there was a lull.

"You know what it means," I said. "The big thing it means."

Mom and Dad frowned question marks at each other.

"You don't remember?" I said. "You told me when I started Galer Street that if I got perfect grades the whole way through, I could have anything I wanted for a graduation present."

"I do remember," Mom said. "It was to ward off further talk of a pony."

"That's what I wanted when I was little," I said. "But now I want something different. Aren't you curious what it is?"

"I'm not sure," Dad said. "Are we?"

"A family trip to Antarctica!"

I pulled out the brochure I'd been sitting on. It was from an adventure travel company that does cruises to exotic places. I opened it to the Antarctica page and passed it across the table.

"If we go, it has to be over Christmas."

"This Christmas...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Where'd You Go, Bernadette is told from the point of view of a daughter trying to find her missing mother. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from Bee's perspective? What light does it shed on the bond between Bernadette and Bee?

  2. What are your thoughts on Bernadette's character? Has she become unhinged or has she always been a little crazy? What, if anything, do you think sent her over the edge? Have you ever had a moment in your own life that utterly changed you, or made you call into question your own sanity?

  3. When Bernadette relocates from Los Angeles to Seattle, she must cope with being a transplant in a new city. Have you ever moved, or even stayed...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

What struck me most about this delightful book is that for all its breeziness (and there's plenty of it to move you right along) there's also much that runs deeper beneath the surface.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (1028 words).

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Media Reviews

O, The Oprah Magazine
Underlying the nontraditional narrative are insights into the cost of thwarted creativity and the power of mother-daughter bonds, although a reader may be having too much fun to notice.

The New York Times
Comedy heaven.... This divinely funny, many-faceted novel...leaves convention behind.

Los Angeles Times
Semple's affecting characters, not-necessarily-nice humor and surprising plot twists make this novel an enchanting ride.

The Washington Post
Warm, dark, sad, funny-and a little bit screwball.... This is an inventive and very funny novel that gets bonus points for transcending form.

The Huffington Post
Jonathan Franzen endorsed it...and we weren't aware that he liked anything, so we felt inclined to pick it up. We now see why he enjoyed it so much.

San Francisco Chronicle
It's the rare book that actually deserves the term "laugh-out-loud funny," but I found myself reading passages from almost every page to anyone who would listen, even as I could barely articulate the words through my own laughter.

Kirkus Reviews
A fun beach read for urban sophisticates or those who think they are.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As expected from a writer who has written episodes of Arrested Development, the nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying dénouement.

Booklist
Starred Review. Under the guise of a hilarious romp, Semple explores the universal questions of why we do what we do and love what we love to some sweet and unexpected ends.

Author Blurb Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here
Brilliant, hilarious, endlessly inventive, and compulsively readable, Where'd You Go, Bernadette grabs you by the collar and never lets go. Semple is not only a masterful juggler, and an astute social critic, she is a magician!

Author Blurb Matthew Kneale, author of When We Were Romans
A delightfully funny book, that constantly catches one by surprise, Where'd You Go, Bernadette combines a shrewdly observed portrait of Seattle - life with, of all things, a mysterious disappearance in Antarctica. A pleasure.

Author Blurb Kate Atkinson, author of Case Histories and Started Early, Took My Dog

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is fresh and funny and accomplished, but the best thing about it was that I never had any idea what was going to happen next. It was a wild ride...

Author Blurb Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
The characters in Where'd You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure.

Reader Reviews

Patricia

Loved it!!!!! So wity, I never laughed so much reading a book.
This was my book clubs first reading. I had already read it and enjoyed it so much I read it again for my club. I would highly recommend this book to any group. You will have lots to discuss after the reading.

Cloggie Downunder

clever and very funny
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is the second novel by American author and TV writer, Maria Semple. When Bernadette Fox disappears two days before Christmas and a scheduled family trip to Antarctica, her fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee is determined to ...   Read More

Lori

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
I'd highly recommend this fun read. I couldn't put the book down; there were lots of unexpected twists and turns. This was a unique book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

mainlinebooker

Hilarious
This is one book that I am urging all my friends to read - a perfect end of the summer wrap up. I laughed so hard throughout this witty novel and didn't want it to end. Run to the store for this one. You won't regret it..

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Beyond the Book

Cold Antarctica, a Tourism Hot Spot

Where'd You Go Bernadette has much talk about Antarctica, the coldest, windiest, driest desert continent on earth. Located around the South Pole, Antarctica covers an area of 5.1 million square miles (larger than the US, as well as the continents of Europe or Australia) and has a thick ice cap that has built over millions of years.

Size comparison between the US and AntarcticaThose who can afford the price tag of around $10,000 can go on a cruise to the continent navigating through the Drake Passage. The Drake Passage is a body of water, which connects the southern tip of South America and the Shetland islands of Antarctica. Passage through this body of water is a must but tourists need to pack a lot of Dramamine because it can be an extremely choppy ride – it's not ...

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