Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

In Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, infamous architect Bernadette Fox has become a near recluse after moving to Seattle with her husband to recover from an architecture project gone horribly wrong in Los Angeles. She has hired an assistant from India to take care of her life from afar and plan the trip to Antarctica that her daughter Bee has requested. Ultimately, this all proves to be too much for Bernadette, and she disappears when her husband stages an intervention.

The story is presented as a series of emails, letters and memos that have been compiled by Bee, who is trying to figure out why her mother fled. This narrative style will appeal to fans of epistolary fiction and quirky writing. Anyone who has ever been on the email list of a preschool or private school will chuckle at the many reminders Bernadette receives from her daughter’s private school. Microsoft’s corporate culture is also lampooned in the story of Bernadette’s husband and his rise to power at the technology giant.

Semple has written episodes of "Arrested Development," and the offbeat humor in her second novel mirrors that of the cult television comedy. The interesting writing style and humor will appeal to teens and adults alike.

While this satirical story packs a comedic punch, there are some tender moments and an examination of what it means to be a family. Search the VBPL catalog for Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. For another quirky but moving story of family relationships, try The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris.

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