Where'd You Go, Bernadette Maria Semple

Aug 6, 2014 review (read between Aug 2, 2014 – Aug 6, 2014)

1st reading read review on Goodreads

I think I bought Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple over a year ago, pre-ordering the book off Amazon. I honestly don’t know why, since I usually don’t pre-order books. I’ve never pre-ordered a book since, but as a result of that brief lapse of judgement I have this book. After having it lounge around in my room for over a year, I finally sat down and read it.

The story is conveyed through a series of e-mails, documents and transcripts, all pertaining to the titular Bernadette or her immediate family (genius husband Elgie, precocious daughter Bee). Some interjections here and there from the viewpoint of Bee, but those are fairly sparse. The early pieces set the stage, letting the reader know how bizarre and unlikable everyone in the book is, and gradually opens up to a fairly linear plot: too many incomprehensible things happen to this ridiculous mother and she disappears, leaving the precocious daughter to pick up the pieces and find her.

Despite there being a ‘disappearance,’ the plot is incredibly linear and I didn’t find it engaging at all. The thing that bothered me the most, however, were all the characters and how ridiculous they were. I think they were all already-ridiculous stereotypes blown further out of proportion and personified. In other words, they were all annoying and unlikable. Maybe it’s because I’m not from Seattle (I noticed that Semple, the author, lives in Seattle, so maybe she has to deal with this every day), but none of the characters seemed human. Maybe it’s satire? I can’t be too sure since I don’t think I’m familiar with what migiht be being satirized.

I guess the writing is cute and it can be a quick read, but frankly, I had a hard time finding any other redeeming qualities.