Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Audiobook: 9 hours, 39 minutes
Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Publisher: Hachette
Published date: 2012
FTC: Checked out from library

What a fun book!  I like to check out audiobooks from my library which help me enjoy doing chores around my house.   I thought the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, did such a fabulous job telling this story.  She made the story extremely engaging fun with the different characters' voices.  A definite recommend whether you read or listen to this book.

The synopsis from GoodReads:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My thoughts:

I'm not sure how Bernadette's character comes off while reading, but I found her absolutely hilarious and adored her.  The narrator did a wonderful job - with all her complaining and irritations with others, she comes off more comedic than annoying.  That's a fine line to walk.  I couldn't help but loving her character.

I love the way the story is told through emails and letters.  We hear snippets from Bernadette, Bee (who is also just an awesome and smart girl), Elgin Branch - Bernadette's husband and Bee's father, Elgin's assistant Soo-Lin, and Soo-Lin's friend Audrey.  Don't worry, it works and it's explained as Bee compiling all these snippets to try to find her mother and explain how and why she left.

I thought it was funny as well as poignant that Bernadette's sanity was put into question because of her increasingly reclusive and agoraphobic tendencies.  Because, in all honesty, don't we all walk that fine line between irritation and annoyance and craziness?  I also loved her outsider's description of Seattle because having lived for years in Alaska and understanding some of the Seattle nuances it just cracked me up.

It's refreshing to find characters that, while they don't always make the right decisions and often really horrible ones, I found them to be realistic and didn't feel like slapping them.  Even Elgin.  Again, my only gripe with the book's narrator in the audio version is that sometimes Bee sounded a bit younger than her 15 years - especially being a smart 15 year old.  I kept imaging her more like a smart 8 year old.  I'm not sure why, but sometimes Bernadette's voice made me think New York and not L.A.  Other than that...

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: I love that the story took us to Antarctica.  That's right.  How's that for a tad bit of armchair travel?  And it was realistic too. (I knew it! Maria Semple did go to Antarctica. I thought so.)  It reminded me a bit of the ferry ride down from Alaska but in a much colder and exotic locale.  I've got a book on Antarctica by James McClintock on my shelf right now which is calling to me.  I love when one book inspires me to read another book.

Extra stuff:

It looks like Where'd You Go, Bernadette is going to be made into a movie!  I always love envisioning the actors and actresses who'd play the parts in books.  There's some interesting ideas of Judy Davis or Helena Bonham Carter as Bernadette.  Who would you cast?

About the author:

Interesting note, Maria Semple wrote for shows like Arrested Development, Mad About You, Ellen, and Saturday Night Live.  You can definitely see this in her writing - vivid and funny.



  1. I've been on the fence about this book for sometime now. After reading your review I am intrigued now. Plus, I am going to check my local library to see if they have the audio book available. Thanks for that idea!
    I love the fact that you found the characters to be realistic and didn't feel like slapping them. Lately, I've been having that feeling from the last few books I've read.
    Btw I did not know that this book was going to be made into a movie. All the more reasons to read/listen to it ;) I approve of Helena Bonham Carter as Bernadette. She seems to play wacky characters perfectly.

    1. I agree, Helena Bonham Carter would play an awesome Bernadette. Let me know if you listen or read the book!

  2. Looking forward to the audio version - glad u liked it.

  3. Can't wait to read this book. It sounds like a fun time.

  4. My library has the audiobook and I can't wait to listen to it. :)

  5. A perfect example of how different people see things differently! I downloaded the audio of this for a long drive this weekend that was just me and the baby. (Sob, almost three years old!) And while I thought the voices were terrific, I ultimately decided not to finish listening to the audio. It literally made my head hurt to go from the mom's quiet voice to Bee's loud one and I kept having to adjust my volume. I finally quit and listened to NOTHING for the last 90 minutes of my drive. (in the middle of SD there is often no radio except for AM)

    1. Oh that's too funny. I could totally see how the change in voice/volume would be irritating in the car. I listened on headphones so it really didn't bother me. I actually enjoyed the vibrancy of the narrator because I've been so sleep deprived because of the baby I needed an audio book that didn't put me to sleep. On another note, I can't believe your baby is almost three!! Where does the time go?

  6. I read the book and though she was hilarious too. That sign she ordered to put up for the neighbors killed me. And the stories about the road and drivers in Seattle.

    I really enjoyed the book. Judy Davis is too old to be Bernadette. I can see Helena Bonham Carter or possibly Sandra Bullock. :)

    1. The mudslide/sign incident and the fact that she called them gnats just cracked me up. I loved when she was complaining about Seattle and the drivers. Hahhaha. I totally got that. I could see Judy Davis being too old now...sigh. But I didn't even think of Sandra Bullock! That would be a great character for her to play!

  7. I read this book this summer and loved it. A movie would be great! I would pick Tina Fey to play Bernadette.