When I grow up, I want to be like Bernadette Fox – I already have the agoraphobic tendencies, but not the brilliant “do-my-own-thing-and-to-hell-with-the-rest” attitude. Also not the virtual assistant in India, but as it turned out, neither did Bernadette.
Then again, perhaps Bee is a better role model. At 15 she is a straight-A (sorry, straight S – “Surpasses Excellence”) student, gutsy, and a little cheeky, but she can get away with it because she is a genuinely nice and caring person. Even when she becomes a typically difficult adolescent after her mother’s disappearance, she’s never completely unlikable.
It’s so difficult to write this review without giving too much away. Bee goes to GalerStreetSchool, a private school in an unfortunate location (next to a wholesale seafood distributor). The parents hope to find a new location and attract what PR guru Ollie-O refers to as “Mercedes Parents”. This actually has nothing to do with Bernadette, who couldn’t be bothered by anything the school or other parents (to whom she refers to as “The Gnats”) do. Except her gnat neighbour Audrey Griffin seems to really have it in for Bernadette, and in the course of trying to make things unpleasant for Bernadette, she causes herself a landslide of grief.
Bee convinces her parents they need to undertake a family cruise to Antarctica over Christmas – her reward for an outstanding report card. Bernadette loathes the idea of being shut up with hundreds of people in a confined space, and just the thought of motion sickness makes her stomach turn.
Bernadette’s husband, Microsoft whizz Elgin Branch, is absent and apparently completely unaware of the chaos ensuing from their manse on the hill. Except for Audrey’s best friend, another Galer Street Gnat named Soo-Lin, is soon appointed as his team’s admin, and she’s only too happy (and eager) to enlighten the man of his wife’s widespread destruction.
One day, while taking his team to lunch in downtown Seattle, they cross paths with Bernadette. The episode is so embarrassing, that Elgin decides it is time for an intervention. It is during this incident that Bernadette disappears without a trace…
In part two of the book, Bernadette’s background comes to light, and you get to understand why this brilliant woman is also so damaged, and so disconnected from “the real world”.
Miserable without her mom, Bee takes out her anger on her father, and his new friend Soo-Lin. She persuades him to take her on the cruise they never went on, as a way to find closure about the mysterious events surrounding her mother’s disappearance. Elgin’s desperate not to lose his daughter too and agrees to the trip. As he disconnects from his mail and his mobile, he slowly reconnects with his daughter, and finally gives in to not giving up on his wife, and joins Bee in her search of Bernadette.
This is a light-hearted and heart-warming book. I loved every minute of it. After reading several average books this year, I was absolutely delighted by it. I’m very stingy with my Audible credits, but this was a worthwhile spend.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple (bfgb.wordpress.com)
- Finding ‘Bernadette’ (songsofsirens.wordpress.com)
- Review of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple (rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com)
- Bernadette: The Perfect Companion for the Beach (projecteve.com)
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette (talkingcovers.com)