David Yoon's Reviews > Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
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's review
Jan 10, 13

Read in January, 2013

Sometimes in order to find yourself you need to get lost ...and the characters populating this book are completely and utterly gone.

Titular Bernadette Fox is the ugly American, Real Housewife of Seattle kvetching to her Indian virtual secretary Manjula, who she pays $30.00 a week to pull together travel itineraries, order anti-psychotics and blackberry abatement specialists. She's her offshore confidante who she can unload on about the weather, 5 way intersections and even Canadians.

"One of the main reasons I don't like leaving the house is because I might find myself face-to-face with a Canadian. Seattle is crawling with them. You probably think, U.S./Canada, they're interchangeable because they're both filled with English-speaking, morbidly obese white people. Well, Manjula, you couldn't be more mistaken.

...The way you might fear a cow sitting down in the middle of the street during rush hour, that's how I fear Canadians. To Canadians, everyone is equal. Joni Mitchell is interchangeable with a secretary at open-mic night. Frank Gehry is no greater than a hack pumping out McMansions on AutoCAD. John Candy is no funnier than Uncle Lou when he gets a couple of beers in him. No wonder the only Canadians anyone's ever heard of are the ones who have gotten the hell out. Anyone with talent who stayed would be flattened under an avalanche of equality. The thing Canadians don't understand is that some people are extraordinary and should be treated accordingly."

Maria Semple wrote for Arrested Development - which should really be the one line review.

The story is a whirlwind, pieced together from police reports, hasty faxes, email directives to offshore virtual assistants, psychiatric evaluations, school newsletters, FBI abstracts and blogger transcripts. This allows Semple to write each character in their own voice.

From a former MacArther Genius to a Microsoft slash TEDTalk rockstar, private school marketing douche, mooney, self-help (Victims Against Victimhood) admin, high strung neighbour wound drum tight and a preternaturally smart tween daughter (naturally) they're all here. But don't just dismiss it as TV fluff on the page. It's smart and satisfying. Snark without being terribly mean spirited.

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