This is a Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria SempleDecember 26, 2014
I wasn't able to get to the library again before leaving, but, as luck would have it, my grandparents have a small library in their condominium. (If I haven't mentioned before, my grandparents live in a 55+ community in Sarasota—if you know anything about Florida, you will find this entirely predictable.) Where'd You Go was lying on the top of one of the stacks, and I snapped it up immediately for a poolside read. I wolfed the entire thing down in just over 30 hours.
This is the story of a family—Elgie, Bernadette and their daughter, Bee, who is about to graduate from middle school with flying colors and wants to celebrate. The moment she requests a family trip to Antarctica, she sends her agoraphobic, socially-avoidant mother into a tailspin, one that (as the title suggests) results in her disappearance from their home in Seattle, Washington. Bee decides to hunt her mother down, piecing together the days before she left through faxes, emails and police reports, and learns much more than expected about her family and (cheesily) herself along the way.
When she told me about it, Shannon described the book as "vacation perfect." She couldn't have been more right—the story moves along at a brisk trot and is intensely funny, with the epistolary style adding to the laughs (you learn about certain events through others' reports, e.g., an emergency room bill, leaving the actual mayhem to the imagination). Bernadette and Bee are sharp and feisty, and you can't help but get sucked in to their us vs. Seattle mentality. (Bernadette really hates Seattle and manages to be hilariously cogent about it. I can't wait to recommend this to one of my friends, a born-and-bred Seattleite—I think she'll love it.)
Still, I hesitate to call this completely fluffy. The book tackles serious subjects like mental illness, miscarriage and neonatal health problems. It doesn't shy away from showing us a woman's slow but steady retreat into herself and what happens when this absorption wins out over her love for her family. This book is more like... sweet potato casserole. A layer of pure sugar-spun enjoyment, something more nourishing and substantial lurking underneath, and, overall, a sweet treat of a story. ("With a healthy serving of fiber," my boyfriend added, when I regaled him with this analogy.)
My quibbles with this book are minor. I would normally complain about the characters' cluelessness and my failure to relate to them (most, if not all, are exceedingly wealthy and think their money grants them invincibility), but it really worked here, and the story wouldn't have been the same without it. Some more fleshing out of certain characters would have been nice, but, again, this book worked just the way it was.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a day-long escape into the drama (both serious and not) of someone else's family. We can all use that over the holidays, right?
If anyone else has read Where'd You Go, Bernadette, I'd love to hear your thoughts!