Book review: ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple

Whered You Go, BernadetteHas a book ever just delighted you?

I’ve been fortunate to discover a few that would fall into that category, and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette would definitely top that list. From start to finish, I was enchanted by the characters, unusual storyline and hilarious dialogue.

Basically, it’s awesome.

In rainy Seattle, architect Bernadette Fox is raising her daughter, Bee, with husband Elgin Branch in a dilapidated house she can’t stomach fixing since a disastrous, high-profile project many years before. Smart as a whip, Bee is used to her mother’s quirks: her wry humor, for sure, as well as her constant battles with other school parents. And there’s the whole issue of her never wanting to leave the house, you know — a desire that pushes her to hire a virtual assistant to take care of everything down to grocery shopping.

When Bee is promised a trip to Antarctica, Bernadette turns to her assistant to take care of all the details . . . but as secrets are revealed, the trip falls into jeopardy. Before they can decide how to move forward as a family, Bernadette disappears.

Told through a series of emails and Bee’s notes, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is actually flat-out hilarious. Intelligent. Unique. My summary doesn’t do justice to how funny Bernadette is — and to be honest, I saw much of myself in her. Though I’ve been able to stave off agoraphobia so far, I’m quite happy to take care of most tasks online. If I can email instead of calling you, check yo’ email. Heck, I even order pizza online. (I mean, it’s just convenient.)

Bernadette is a really fantastic, multifaceted character — as is Bee, her hilarious daughter. Elgin plays less of a role in the drama than one might expect, but his behavior is also a catalyst for all that’s set in motion before Antarctica. Bee does most of the narrating, though Bernadette’s emails are at the center of much of the chaos. I loved them both.

It’s hard to explain Where’d You Go, Bernadette except to say it was an enchanting, entertaining, wholly different novel — one I enjoyed from start to finish. Even months later (how did it take me so long to talk about this one?!), I can vividly recall passages and crazy scenes.

If you can get your paws on the audio version, I highly recommend it. Narrator Kathleen Wilhoite does an outstanding job as the many folks populating this great story, and I loved her interpretation of Bee. Though I’m sure I would have had a grand ol’ time with the print version, too, listening to the story was a true pleasure.


4.5 out of 5

Pub: 2013 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio version borrowed from my local library

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20 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple

  1. I agree with you 100%!!!! Completely charming, laugh-out-loud hilarious, but with a touch of gravity. The narration was some of the best stuff I’ve ever heard (can you even believe Wilhoite’s singing voice???). Did you know this is going to be made into a movie? It is easy to envision, isn’t it?

  2. Sold!! Just got the audio version. It’s funny because Elle is coming home from school with those scholastic flyers and this book was featured for parents “because you read, too.” LOL! Can’t wait to listen!

  3. I wasn’t as impressed with this book. The idea was fantastic, but I didn’t find the characters believable. I didn’t think Bee acted her age at all, and when the format shifted towards the end, I was kind of disappointed. But it was a fun read. I read it with my book club a while back.

  4. You write the best book reviews! I want to pick this up…both the print and the audio version! Thank you for sharing! And I just love the name Bernadette!

  5. Can I go ahead and admit that I didn’t LOVE this book? I like it, it was funny… I just guess I didn’t see why people were absolutely raving about it. Whomp. Always such a disappointment.

  6. I’m a little late to reading your review but I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on it! I think the fact that we could both relate to Bernadette’s insane personality is what made it so enjoyable. Thanks again for the recommendation!

    My friend just gave me a copy of Gone Girl to read but I’ll be perusing your other reviews for future inspiration. 🙂

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