Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I grew up on the rainy side of the Cascades. I moved away for awhile and was freaked out by a year of blue skies in Northern California as they went through a drought, but then got pretty used to it. Dry skies and actual seasons for a few years in Colorado seemed pretty neat and we moved back to that on the dry East side of the Cascades. I talked with someone in Salem before our move who commented on it being the 99th day of straight rain; it seemed like he was bragging! All this to explain why I do feel somewhat nostalgic about books set in Seattle, or points north, that bring up rain and blackberries (one thing I do miss about the rainy side). Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins is an example of this somewhat limited genre as is Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette has a whacky contemporary feel to it. Bernadette is trying to adjust to life in Seattle after moving from LA – it’s been more than 10 years since they moved. She’s married and has an 8th grader at a nearby private school. She calls all the other parents at the school “gnats.” That gives you an idea of how well she’s adjusting. Her husband is a big shot at Microsoft and there’s even a depiction of him giving a TED talk in the book. If you haven’t listened to any TED talks before, here’s a good one to start with: The author also likes it.

The action starts to really pick up when Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, requests a trip to Antarctica. Bernadette doesn’t really leave the house so this entails her hiring a virtual assistant from India. The story is partly told via the e-mails between Bernadette and this assistant. It’s also told from the point-of-view of her daughter after Bernadette’s gone missing and Bee is trying to find any information about her at all. Bernadette’s back story as an architect is pretty interesting. 

This is a fun book. I think PNW’s will appreciate it as well as any of those exiled from these parts and missing it. If anyone knows of other fiction books that fit into this genre, I’d love to hear about them.

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