Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Pages: 326 (Hardcover)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
Date Completed: February 8, 2013
One of the members of the Partners and Professors book club received Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple as a Christmas present. I was excited to read the book when I read that the author had written for some of my favorite shows, including Mad About You and Arrested Development. Just like when I watch those shows, I laughed out loud and was surprised at several points in the book. I expected the story to be funny, but I was delighted to find that there were also several sweet moments.
One particular moment in the story tugged at my heart strings and made me want to be a better parent. Bernadette's daughter, Bee, recalls an incident in which other kids were teasing her and her mother's response. The quote is here:
“I can pinpoint that as the single happiest moment of my life, because I realized then that Mom would always have my back. It made me feel giant. I raced back down the concrete ramp, faster than I ever had before, so fast I should have fallen, but I didn't fall, because Mom was in the world.”
My mother's approach to my getting teased was to ignore it. I can understand the power of not engaging with teasers or bullies, but I feel like I would have cheered louder if my parents had been a bit more snarky. I am not sure how I will do with my own daughter, but I hope that I am able to make her feel like Bee about my being in the world.
Bernadette had many qualities and behavior which annoyed me, but her way of navigating the world also made me laugh. I really enjoyed the relationship between her and Bee. It was also nice to revisit Seattle from the perspective of an outsider. I totally related to the culture shock aspect of Bernadette's experience. The format of the novel worked for me-- the mix of emails, letters, newspaper articles, and general storytelling helped move the story along. We have book club in a few weeks and I am looking forward to discussing.
I am counting the book for the following challenges: