Book #53: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was a lucky thrift store find I grabbed after hearing it mentioned on my favorite book podcast. But it languished on my shelves until my sister read it and told me how much she enjoyed it. I was hesitant about starting it because I knew the format was different than a traditional novel, and I wasn’t convinced it could work. The story is told through correspondence – emails, notes, letters, messages – as fifteen-year-old Bee tries to piece together what happened to her mother, Bernadette, when she suddenly disappears. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Bernadette’s background and what would drive her to disappear. In the end, it was an enjoyable book and Semple made the format work for her purpose. It took me a while to get interested because there are no likable characters at the beginning, but one engaging aspect of the novel is that there is some significant development. With a wry sense of humor, Semple explores themes of family (especially mother-daughter relationships), how our response to difficulties can affect our lives for better or worse, and the pressures to fulfill others’ expectations. It’s a fun, quick read, and apparently coming out as a movie next year.

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