Rated Reads

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

Rated: High

Bee is a bright eighth-grader whose parents are both talented; her father heads a team at Microsoft and is well known for his TED talk, and her mother was once well known, before she fled Los Angeles and became a near recluse in Seattle, where now she spends most of her time complaining about the city and the state and their proximity to Idaho and Canada. Since her parents dote on her, though, when Bee asks for a trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades all through middle school, they agree. Her mother, Bernadette, isn’t sure how she’s going to survive among the other people on the cruise ship or manage the seasickness, but that’s part of what’s so handy about the virtual assistant she’s hired in India to manage all of her affairs.

Then a small disaster involving the neighbor whose child also goes to Bee’s private school occurs, on top of a smaller series of cascading events, and Bernadette is suddenly AWOL. Bee is resolved to find her, and a stack of emails, faxes, notes, and other correspondence provides her with the clues she needs to try to track her down.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a quirky novel composed of Bee’s point of view interspersed with the correspondence she collects that skewers Microsoft, Seattle and private-school parents but also charms with its main characters, a woman who’s lost her way and a daughter who’s determined to help the mother she loves. The book is entertaining the whole way through but particularly charming at the conclusion.

Rated: High, for language. There are about a dozen uses of strong language and some other occasions of milder language. There are a few references to sex, but no details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

One Response to Where’d You Go, Bernadette

  1. I would also point to one of my favorite books by British hoitirsan Simon Schama, Dead Certainties. He uses a variety of ways of exploring two historical events, the first one being the death of General Wolfe at the Battle of Quebec in 1759. He explores this event with an interpretation of Benjamin West’s famous painting; with a report on the public reception and reaction to that painting in London; with a fictional narrative of a British soldier storming the cliffs; and a few others I don’t recall at the moment. It’s a fascinating multi-faceted examination of how history is lived and remembered.

  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  • by Maria Semple
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: