Oh my goodness – this book! Amazing! This novel was recommended to me by a family friend so it’s not a book that came from my book list unfortunately, I really need to start working on that, but still a great read none the less. My only gripe was with some of the story line choices at the end, but I’ll get to that eventually.
This story follows a family through their matriarch’s battle with fitting in and how through a series of wild events she ends up missing. The family has to come together to figure out what happened to her and how to bring the family back together.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is classified as a “Missing Person/Mother & Daughter” story. I was somewhat skeptical because the daughter in the story, Bee, is barely a teenager and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to relate to the “plight” of today’s teenager. Wow, was I wrong! Bee is smart, sassy, and very mature for her age. She’s a lot more outspoken than I was at her age, but I definitely can identify with the way she stands up for herself and the relationship she has with her mom. Some of the altercations she gets into I can see myself getting into now as an adult, so at first I was a little thrown off that a child was getting into them, but in the context of the story it works.
I also adore Bernadette. For better or worse I see quite a lot of myself in this character. She means well but is eccentric and that leads to anti-social tendencies, not because she isn’t friendly or kind, but simply because she doesn’t wanna put up with other people’s shit. Like myself, she’s known for wearing her sunglasses at all times and drives a car that Bee refers to as “The Princess & the Pea” because it’s such a bumpy ride – much like how my car is named “Little Indy” after the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.
These characters were extremely well crafted. You can tell Maria Semple put a lot of time and effort into creating her story. Each character is complex and 3 dimensional. The dialogue flows easily like a conversation between people you’d see every day.
This story kept me highly engaged. I couldn’t put it down. While some parts were slower than others, others literally had me yelling out loud, “Holy shit! I can’t believe this is happening!” However, then the story got really fantastical. I was slightly disappointed because the start of the story seemed so real and I felt such a connection to it but once it started to wrap up everything became so far from reality. At that point it started to feel like a typical fiction story where everything wraps up perfectly and it’s the happiest of endings for the main characters, not really reality.
Despite my distaste for the wrap up of this novel, the journey to get there was beyond exciting. I would highly recommend “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”.
“The smallest [boat] has 150 passengers, which translates into me being trapped with 149 other people who will uniquely annoy the hell out of me with their rudeness, waste, idiotic questions, incessant yammering, creepy food requests, boring small talk, etc. Or worse, they might turn their curiosity toward me, and expect pleasantry in return. I’m getting a panic attack just thinking about it. A little social anxiety never hurt anyone, am I right?” – Bernadette (pg. 10)
“There isn’t assigned seating at the dining room, and they have tables for four. That means the three of us can sit down and if we pile the extra chair with our gloves and hats, nobody can sit with us!” – Bernadette (pg. 42)
“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place. I don’t know if it’s possible to feel everything all at once, so much that you think you’re going to burst…I felt so full of love for everything. But at the same time, I felt so hung out to dry there, like nobody could ever understand. I felt so alone in this world, and so loved at the same time.” – Bee (pg. 199)
Have you read this novel? Based on this review, do you have any interest in picking this up? Please let me know in the comments!