I absolutely adored this book!
Bee is a 15-year-old excelling student who is searching for her mother, Bernadette, who has disappeared right before their family trip to Antarctica. To Elgie, Bernadette’s husband, she is a troubled wife, to her neighbors and the mothers of Bee’s school she’s a menace, but to Bee, she’s her mom who she always enjoys spending time with. Bee’s search includes digging through confidential emails, handwritten notes, and other evidence such as receipts.
What otherwise could be read as an emotional and painful story, Simple has a way of writing the unfortunate circumstances of the Branch family in a funny, witty way. At first I thought the format the book was written — emails and letters — would be tedious, but I don’t there could’ve been any other way to write this story in a way that would make sense. I finished this book in two days but if I had no daily responsibilities to attend to, I definitely would’ve finished it in one sitting.
You never formally “meet” some of the characters. But you actually learn a lot about them through their emails and letters. You will grow to love Bee and Bernadette. Their mother-daughter relationship is like no other. Elgie is somehow in the picture but not. I think Temple intentionally wrote his character this way, but I would have liked to have known Elgie’s personality a bit better rather than just his business etiquette. But I think the point here is that he is so absorbed in his job that he neglects his family and not even the reader knows who he is. On the other hand, you will find a Bernadette to be quite the character yet disturbingly relatable.
“You what it’s like when you go to Ikea and you can’t believe how cheap everything is, and even though you may not need a hundred tea lights, my God, they’re only ninety-nine cents for the whole bag? Or: Sure, the throw pillows are filled with a squishy ball of no-doubt toxic whatnot, but they’re so bright and three-for-five dollars that before you know it you’ve dropped five hundred bucks, not because you needed any of this crap, but because it was so damn cheap?”
She has a (desire?) o fit in a world that she views as completely absurd and boring. She finds the people of Seattle annoying, especially the fellow mothers of Bee’s school whom she calls “gnats.”
“What you’ve heard about the rain: it’s all true… But every time it rains, here’s what they’ll have to say: ‘Can you believe the weather?’ And you want to say, ‘Actually, I can believe the weather. What I can’t believe is that I’m actually having a conversation about the weather.’ But I don’t say that, you see, because that would be instigating a fight, something I try my best to avoid, with mixed results.”
This book is an anthem to how different we all are, yet somehow we have to find a way to live amongst each other despite our differences and annoyances.
The last couple chapters are written in a normal format rather than a compilation of emails and letters. It is written from Bee’s perspective. You really get to know Bee on a deeper level. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed with the ending of the book. I think it just felt like the book was left unfinished. Like it needed one more chapter. But I still found it to be a very heartwarming book.
If you’re looking for an easy read, pick this one up! This was a great book to start off the Gilmore Girls Readathon with. It brought mystery, comedy, and adventure all at once.
3 thoughts on “Book Review: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple”
This will def be my next library checkout! Thanks for the review. I think I saw this at the library before but when I thumbed through it, I saw that it was emails and letters and didn’t think that it would be a good read. I’m willing to give it a go on your recommendation. 🙂
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Thats exactly how I felt about it! But I kept hearing about how good it was and I’m glad I finally gave it a chance 😊 let me know what you think!