This month my book club is discussing Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, a story that is told through emails, invoices, memos and just a touch of narrative from Bernadette’s daughter, Bee.
Here’s a description from goodreads.com:
“Bernadette Fox has vanished.
When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces.
Which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where’d You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are, and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.”
Epistolary novels are always a bit of a gamble, in my opinion. Breaking away from a traditional narrative can make it hard to get immersed in the story, but Where’d You Go, Bernadette did a great job navigating those rough waters and the result is a story you’ll find yourself lost in way into the late hours of the night.
I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family. This is a great look at mental illnesses both perceived, ignored and real – and a story that shows the complexities of families, marriage, neighborhoods & the world. It really illustrates that idea of there being two sides to every story and how our actions can have far bigger consequences than we might imagine. For a “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch.
Well written, funny and insightful – I would happily recommend Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple to anyone looking for a really great story to lose themselves in.