Thursday, June 14, 2018

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel Paperback by Maria Semple (Back Bay Books)

Fifteen year old Bee lives in Seattle with her parents in a 12,000 square ft building that once was a Catholic school for wayward girls. To say their lifestyle is unconventional would be an understatement. Their "home" has blackberry vines growing through the floorboards, a roof that leaks like a sieve, and an odor that would assault anyone's nose who might enter; yet the three of them don't seem to notice. It's not because of lack of intelligence or money. They all have Einstein level IQs. Elgin has a very high level job at Microsoft, Bernadette is an award winning architect, and Bee has been accepted to a prestigious boarding school.

They are planning on taking a trip to Antarctica over Christmas break, a reward for Bee's perfect report card. But things start going awry. And then Bernadette disappears...

This is a strange story told in an unique way. It's told by Bee with the help of emails, letters from school personnel, police reports, medical reports, invoices, etc. This book is satirical; certainly not a book anchored in "everyday life" realism. In this regard, it reminds me a bit of Rachael Joyce's "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye".

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" isn't for everyone. Of course you can say that about every book ever published, but that goes double here. I would've given up on it if not for a reading buddy who pushed me to stick it out. The characters are not likable in the beginning (or understandable), especially Bernadette. But once I got through the first quarter, I was invested in the story. And when I reached the last page, I realized wisps of Bee, Bernadette, and Elgin have been written in my memory bank with a permanent marker. They'll fade, but never completely leave.

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