Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Name of Book: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Author: Maria Semple

ISBN: 978-0-316-33360-3

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Type of book: Antarctica, mother/daughter relatiionship, disappear, missing, epistolary, agoraphobia, heart problems, living life, growing up, coming of age, creativity, snarky view of today and lifestyles

Year it was published: 2012


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.


Main characters include Bee, a young teenage girl who is extremely intelligent and who is also very close to her mother, Bernadette. Bee is also very stubborn and determined to do whatever she can for her mother. Out of all the characters in the story, Bee is also the most believable. Bernadette is Bee's mother, a woman who seems to suffer a bit from agoraphobia and who is an extremely talented designer. Bernadette is also mysterious, snarky and extremely opinionated when it comes to Washington Seattle, Canada, various people, medication, etc. she also has strange reactions to different events. Like Bee she is also determined. Secondary characters in the book included enemies as well as neighbors, Bee's father, and schoolmates which seemed to possess more stereotypes than anything else. Audrey Grifin is Bernadette's enemy who detests her and does the best she can to make her life living hell. She is nosy, very dedicated to school and prefers to turn her sight away from her son's misdeeds. Soo-Lin Lee-Seagal is Audrey's friend as well as Bee's father's co-worker and an assistant. She is divorced, has two kids and is also extremely dedicated to her job.


One lesson I picked up from the story is that you never know someone as well as you think


The story is epistolary, composed of letters, notes, emails, etc by Bee, Bernadette's daughter. (During the first 3/4ths of the book, Bee also makes notes about what really happened and went down during some events.) thus the point of view is in first person from multiple characters. The characters all had their own voices and style of writing emails or letters which means they were distinct and there wasn't any confusion about who was speaking, although the author did state who was telling the story.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Maria Semple is the author of This One Is Mine. Before writing fiction, she wrote for the television shows Arrested Development, Mad About You and Ellen. She lives in Seattle.


For me personally, the book is lighthearted and a bit comedic. I began to read it during my excursions to a local buffet, and I found it funny and enjoyable, especially comparing it to my normal fare of literature which is more on the heavy side. The book does deal with serious topics such as reputation, agoraphobia, fear of people, loss of creativity as well as looking for purpose in life, but the topics are a bit over the top and are dealt in a lighthearted and unbelievable manner. I did find quite a few situations as unbelievable, one is Bernadette's reaction to what her husband has done, other is that certain neighbors forgive her, but other than that the story is more comedic and over the top with FBI, a personal assistant from India, disappearing on a cruise to Antarctica, etc. A perfect and light-hearted read. Also as well, Balekrishna (Bee in the book) suffers from a heart defect which makes this a diverse story.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. I feel much the same way about this. I really liked it, even though there were parts I thought were stupid (mostly toward the end). I couldn't believe she would forgive her husband - what he tried to do to her is like the plot of a horror movie. But overall I think of the book as fun and interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading her newer book, too.

  2. Towards the end yeah I agree with you. I also can't believe how she reacted when she learned about her husband's actions while she was favorite part was the billboard mud scene hehe. I also appreciated the message of the book: you can find a place to belong and not to let people categorize or define you.


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