Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Genre: General Fiction/Epistolary Fiction
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.
I've heard about Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, as you do when you visit blogs and see what readers are reading. I thought it sounded good and maybe one day I'd read it. The time for that came when I was looking for a piece of epistolary fiction to move me further along to fulfilling The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015.
The story is told through notes, emails, faxes, letters mostly. In between there is a commentary kind of style told by Bee the daughter of Bernadette and Elgie. It is cleverly done and I enjoyed it very much.
It was full of humour, at times there would be a narrow focus on something and then the lens would move out until the full happening was revealed. Bernadette is off side with the gnats as she calls them, parents at her daughters school. I loved this first section of the book when she was at war with them.
Is Bernadette a weirdo or a genius? Is she depressed and suicidal or quite sane. And where does she go when one day she disappears - like a Houdini. It was really interesting watching all that play out.
There were characters in this book I didn't like so much but one thing I learned from it was that a quick judgement about one of them was not going to work. I had to wait until the whole story played out.
I liked the mother/daughter relationship, and while Elgie (husband) was at times frustrating, ultimately he came through.
Extremely clever and entertaining novel.