Sunday, March 10, 2013

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

My sister gave me this book for my birthday, and I LOVED it!  I recommend it for sure.

The story is told through a series of documents: e-mails, receipts, bills, letters, interspersed between first person accounts written by Bee.  Bee is an eighth grader at a prestigious middle school whose father works at Microsoft and whose mother has become kind of a recluse in their big crumbling home on Queen Anne.  If you're from this area, you'll love the Seattle references, if you're a mother who has ever been involved with PTA, volunteering, or over anxious moms, you will crack up knowingly. 

Here's an example of Bee's mom, Bernadette.  She's describing how her heart starts racing when she lays down to go to sleep.
"It sucks in any benign thoughts that might be scrolling across my brain and attaches visceral panic to them.  For instance, during the day I might have mused, Hey, I should pack more fresh fruit in Bee's lunch.  That becomes, I'VE GOT TO PACK MORE FRESH FRUIT IN BEE'S LUNCH!!!  I can feel the irrationality and anxiety draining my store of energy."  Funny, right?  And sort of relate able?  Thats what I loved about this book.

And a quote from Bee, "We'd pass icebergs floating in the middle of the ocean.  They were gigantic, with strange formations carved into them.  They were so haunting and majestic you could feel your heart break, but really they're just chunks of ice and mean nothing." 
She's thoughtful, quirky and someone you want to be friends with.

As you read, you get to know both of these women, and the documents do a good job of piecing the story together.  You get to see both their perspectives, their Dad/husband's, and a nosy neighbor's.  It is written cleverly and I don't think the story is too predictable.  Some parts maybe, but she manages to develop even stereotypical characters into something more.

This is a story of a family who has been distracted and lost touch a bit with each other.  Through some funny and some tragic events they come back together.   I really enjoyed Maria Semple's writing style and the characters she created.  I laughed, I cried, I hope you'll like it too.