Scott's Reviews > Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
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Jan 06, 13

Read in January, 2013

I really loved big chunks of this novel, Maria Semple's funny, lively, sometimes genuinely moving story of a Seattle family in extreme crisis. Mom is Bernadette, one-time architect, MacArthur genius grant award-winner, Los Angeles transplant, hilariously rude to her new neighbors in the great Northwest, whom she finds slow, plain, tedious. Dad is Elgin, loving but distracted, a star at Microsoft, deliverer of the fourth most-watched TED talk ever. Daughter is Bee, 15 years old, energetic, observant, extremely likable, who in the book's opening pages, convinces her parents to go on a family vacation to Antartica. Semple tells the tale via the increasingly popular "found objects" method: emails, doctor's reports, school notices, etc., with I think only Bee delivering a straight-up narration, and she unfailing nails the voice of each "speaker"--helicopter parants at Bee's school, Microsoft sycophants, cover-their-asses lawyers--to much comic effect. Bee, especially, is perfect, the cadences and concerns of a super-smart (but not annoyingly precocious) early teen done exactly right. So: great, right? Here's the thing... I totally didn't buy the primary plot-drivers, the series of mid-book events that trigger the entire second act. For someone whose tone is so believable, Semple's plotting, the actions of everyone for about 75 pages, are just so unbelievably ludicrous that I lost faith. She recovers in the end, but the overall damage is done. Will definitely read Semple's next book, though.
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