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Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

A Novel
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Bernadette is a frightfully intelligent wife and mother whose intense allergy to Seattle specifically, and to people in general, has driven her to hire a virtual assistant in India to execute even her most basic tasks. Then her daughter, Bee, insists on a family trip to Antarctica as her reward for getting perfect grades in middle school, and Bernadette is faced with the daunting prospect of actual human interaction. The timing could not be worse. Worn down by years of dealing with Seattle's polite drivers, overzealous moms, and proximity to Idaho (and don't even get her started on Canada), Bernadette is already on the brink of a breakdown.

Throw in a feud with her neighbor over Bernadette's rampant blackberry bushes, the scandal that erupts when she runs over another mother's foot at the school's drop-off, and a class fundraiser that goes disastrously awry-and it is all too much. Bernadette vanishes, leaving her Microsoft-guru husband, a horde of angry parents, and questioning police officers to pick up the pieces. Desperate to find her mother, Bee probes her emails, invoices, school memos, private correspondence, and other evidence, conjuring out of those shards a portrait of a woman she never knew before-and a secret that could explain everything.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are. It is also a riotous satire of privilege and an unsentimental but powerful story of a daughter's unflinching love for her imperfect mother.

Bernadette is a frightfully intelligent wife and mother whose intense allergy to Seattle specifically, and to people in general, has driven her to hire a virtual assistant in India to execute even her most basic tasks. Then her daughter, Bee, insists on a family trip to Antarctica as her reward for getting perfect grades in middle school, and Bernadette is faced with the daunting prospect of actual human interaction. The timing could not be worse. Worn down by years of dealing with Seattle's polite drivers, overzealous moms, and proximity to Idaho (and don't even get her started on Canada), Bernadette is already on the brink of a breakdown.

Throw in a feud with her neighbor over Bernadette's rampant blackberry bushes, the scandal that erupts when she runs over another mother's foot at the school's drop-off, and a class fundraiser that goes disastrously awry-and it is all too much. Bernadette vanishes, leaving her Microsoft-guru husband, a horde of angry parents, and questioning police officers to pick up the pieces. Desperate to find her mother, Bee probes her emails, invoices, school memos, private correspondence, and other evidence, conjuring out of those shards a portrait of a woman she never knew before-and a secret that could explain everything.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are. It is also a riotous satire of privilege and an unsentimental but powerful story of a daughter's unflinching love for her imperfect mother.

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About the Author-
  • Maria Semple's first novel, This One Is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows such as Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and now lives with her family in Seattle.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 14, 2012
    In her second novel (after This One Is Mine), Semple pieces together a modern-day comic caper full of heart and ingenuity. Eighth-grader Bee is the daughter of Microsoft genius Elgin Branch and Bernadette Fox, a once-famous architect who has become a recluse in her Seattle home. Bee has a simple request: a family cruise to Antarctica as a reward for her good grades. Her parents acquiesce, but not without trepidation. Bernadette’s social anxiety has become so overwhelming that she’s employed a personal assistant from Delhi Virtual Assistants Intl. (who makes “$0.75 USD/hr.”) for tasks as simple as making dinner reservations. How will she survive three weeks on a boat with other live human beings? Maybe she won’t; a day before the trip, Bernadette disappears, and Bee gathers her mother’s invoices, e-mail correspondence, and emergency room bills in the hopes of finding clues as to where she went.The result is a compelling composite of a woman’s life—and the way she’s viewed by the many people who share it. As expected from a writer who has written episodes of Arrested Development, the nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying dénouement. Agent: Anna Stein, Aitken Alexander.

  • AudioFile Magazine Kathleen Wilhoite delivers an energetic narration of Maria Semple's funny, often snide social commentary. Bernadette is lost. She can't find herself in the Seattle housewife she has become. Once an architect and recipient of a MacArthur Ògenius grant,Ó now married to Elgin Branch, Microsoft magnate, Bernadette is trembling on the edge of a breakdown. She's highly neurotic and slightly agoraphobic. She does errands via email through a virtual personal assistant based in India. When Bernadette disappears, it's her brilliant daughter, Bee (Balakrishna!), who searches for her. Wilhoite's frenetic reading works best for quirky eighth-grader Bee. Her adult voices are hyperactive, over-the-top caricatures. A more controlled reading would have better served Semple's touching exploration of a woman's disintegration and a daughter's determination. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine
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    Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
A Novel
Maria Semple
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