“I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be”Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
When I’m reading, I have a real soft spot for quirky and offbeat characters. The title character in Maria Semple’s novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, definitely fits the bill for that archetype. Bernadette is a middle-aged woman who goes to extreme lengths to avoid social interactions. Once a successful architect, she is now a recluse living in a deteriorating home. Since she largely keeps to herself, there are always rumors about her, fabricated from the catty, local women. Because she generally finds people annoying, her only meaningful relationship is that with her daughter, Bee. The story follows Bee as she uses letters, emails, and other forms of correspondence to track down her mother who has mysteriously disappeared before their planned family vacation to Antarctica.
As much as I hate feeling secondhand embarrassment, I think it gives me a sense of understanding and relation when a character is a bit of an outcast. I can relate to the character more if they’re exceedingly awkward, shy, clumsy, even unlikable. It’s not necessarily because I am those things, but more so that I can relate to the feelings that they are experiencing. Whether or not we are this way, I think everyone can relate to the black sheep effect. In the novel, Bernadette is somewhat a mystery throughout the book, but it is made clear that she is very different from the other moms in the community. The other moms have formed shallow relationships with each other which Bernadette always chose to separate herself from. Though her actions seem confusing on the surface, she is relatable because she is trying to escape the madness of normality. By exposing the characters and showing their faults, the author is poking fun at the ridiculous upper class in Seattle and showing the triviality of their every day lives.
I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars. The epistle form gave interesting insights into the mindset of the secondary characters while maintaining an air of mystery around Bernadette, herself. Personally, I don’t really enjoy reading a whole book through a series of letters. I also found many of the characters frustrating and quite annoying at times. Once you figure out that that is par for the course in this book then you can just enjoy the ride. As I read on, I started to enjoy the writing style and understand the author’s sense of humor more. I would recommend this book for those searching for an amusing and lighthearted reading experience. Though it wasn’t particularly memorable it was a fun read. If you like books such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern then you will enjoy Maria Semple’s novel. Side note: Why doesn’t the book’s title have a question mark in it? It should, and this is the hill I’ll die on!
To buy this book: https://bookshop.org/books/where-d-you-go-bernadette/9780316204262
To see the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKvOud9GcRQ