Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette - Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Maria Semple
Series: N/A
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Whip-Smart
On Goodreads

As you will see in this week’s Stacking the Shelves, Where’d You Go, Bernadette was a total impulsive Wegmans buy. I had seen in it in the Times Book Review Section, but hadn’t even entertained the possibility of getting it – as shallow as it sounds, I almost never fall completely in love with a book that has no romance, and nothing to ship. There are only a few books that I’ve ever fallen for without the aspect of romance, and honestly, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by the fabulous Maria Semple is one of them.

The novel is an epistolary, a word I picked up in Lang this year and never quite got around to using, and frankly, I never thought I would use. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is the story of an eighth grader, Bee, and how her mother disappears after a series of tragic accidents. Bee, the intelligent little thing she is, puts together every school memo, email, invoice, and fax into this charming novel to help retrace her mother’s steps.

The blurb of the novel made it seem like it’d be the run of the mill stressed-out-mother-needs-a-little-break, but truthfully, this book was one of the most insightful, well thought out books I have ever read. There are plot twists around every corner, and as much as I pride myself on being able to predict most plots, I couldn’t (even remotely) predict this one. It was so very creative and outside the box that I cannot get over it. I don’t know who you are or what you’re looking to read, but I guarantee you’ll be very happy with Bee’s compilation of clues.

Not only was the plot topsy-turvy in a way that miraculously flowed together (seamlessly, might I add), the characters are beautifully crafted. They are each absolutely perfect and imperfect at the same time, and together, through the course of the emails/letters/memos/invoices/faxes, they gradually improve in their characters. Nothing annoys me more than static main characters, and Semple aimed to please. The main character, Bee, who interjects between conversations involving her mother, is delightful. She is fierce and awesome and absolutely fantastic. Words cannot describe how bad ass she is, you’ll just have to read it for yourself and find out. Her mother, Bernadette, is equally as cool – this mother daughter duo has killer best friend chemistry, which is fabulous. Rounding out the family is Elgie, who is both a tired, run of the mill husband, crazy workaholic, and loving husband and dad. Even the antagonists are not flat – although we as readers don’t like them in the beginning, we come to find that Semple has created beautifully 3D characters. Every person in this book has both their good and their bad qualities, which Semple uses to highlight how absolutely real every character is.

This book has so many little tid bits of information (fun facts! (I adore fun facts)) and is laugh out loud funny. Seriously, Bernadette’s hilarious and unfortunate mishaps had me giggling. Of course, Semple, with her ability to make things three-dimensional, didn’t leave it at a funny novel. She added a somber tone to many parts, and coupled with the so very realistic characters, I couldn’t help but feel their sadness too.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is probably one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is charming and intelligent and has me begging for more of Semple’s work. I flew through this book, not noticing the hours that went by, and I believe you (no matter what your tastes are) will love it too. Definitely the best impulsive Wegmans buy I’ve ever made.

- Amrutha

How would you search for your loved one if they ran away?
Let us know in the comments!

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