Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple
I tore through this wry slice of a book, centered around Bernadette, her precocious daughter Bee, and their foibles in my Seattle hometown. Bernadette is a brilliant architect, though barren of artistic projects since being scorned from the LA architecture scene early in her career. She and her husband, a Microsoft prodigy, move to Seattle, into a dilapidated former Girl’s School on a coveted piece of land in Seattle’s Queen Anne, with the thought that Bernadette would apply her architectural magic to it. Instead, roots continue to grow through the floorboards and vines insinuate their way through the roof, creating a living forest for young Bee, who is the good-natured star of her local middle school. The middle school politics are amusing, and will resonate with Seattleites.
When Bee gets a perfect report card, she cashes in on her parents’ promise for a gift of what ever she wants, and Bee chooses a family trip to Antarctica. Somewhere in between ordering special fishing vests with pockets and astronaut-grade anti-nausea medication for the trip, Bernadette goes AWOL. Bee and her father are left with a trail of emails from Bernadette’s virtual assistant in India, who may or may not be connected with the Russian mob, and some confusion about Bernadette’s mental state. What ensues is an exceptional adventure that ultimately brings dad and daughter closer, Bernadette a shade closer to sane, and reunites an imperfect family. Thoroughly enjoyable, often hilarious, and imaginatively written.
*Thank you to my friend Lindee who recommended this excellent book