Monday, June 21, 2021

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is not my normal cup of tea. Seriously, if you are familiar with me and with this blog at all, you know I'm really picky and choosey about what pieces of modern fiction I will agree to read. I think as I age, I'm actually becoming (just slightly) less picky and more agreeable to the idea of just sitting down with a book which might not be All That, but which is a bit of fun. That's what I hoped this book would be and that is what it was.

I'm going to give you my regular Conservative Reader Alert straight up so that you know and understand that I didn't miss things. There are curse words scattered throughout the book, definitely more in the second half than the first. (That's to reel you in, see? Turn down those defenses.) There is also the issue of infidelity which I thought was handled in a very flippant manner and which completely and totally ignored the fact that such actions have significant consequences. Not to mention, these actions cause ridiculous amounts of pain. Semple wrote about the topic in a manner which suggested it was not only excusable and understandable, but also no big deal. I took huge issue with her handling of this topic. However, I will say she doesn't become explicit in her writing of the story and for that I remain grateful. Then, too, her writing style for this book is very unique and not altogether to my liking. 

After all of the above, are you asking yourself why I read it? I read it for fun. Just that.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? was published in 2012, is a "National Bestseller", has loads of people and publications supporting it, and was made into a movie starring Cate Blanchett which I am now very curious to see. The book was written as if it would one day be made into a movie, and discerning readers will know exactly what I mean when I say that. Semple's writing style is very casual and goes above and beyond in describing any individual character's emotions and reactions in such a way that suggested to me that it was set up to be a screen play. Sometimes you can read a book and just know what the author was hoping would happen. Perhaps that is an unfair characterization of Semple, but there it is. The book reads like a movie and, for me, that's actually what ended up making it fun. I didn't read this book to think, so much as I read it to be entertained. And it was very, very entertaining.

The story is told through the eyes of Bernadette's fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee. We get to know their family and quirks through a series of e-mails, letters and second-hand accounts that Bee shares.T his is ultimately Bee's book about what happened to her mother. You could think of this story as a bit of a redemption to the likes of Eat, Pray, Love. Mom gets fed up with life. Mom hits some snags she doesn't know how to properly deal with. Mom disappears. But, in this case, mom comes back. (I don't feel like that spoils the book. It's obvious that's what's going to happen. If it didn't, this book was likely to read off as a murder mystery and the cutesy cover is your clue that story does not involve a murder.) The story is set in Seattle and Semple writes amusing descriptions of the city and its occupants. She has a very tongue-in-cheek style of humor and you will find yourself smirking as you read from time to time, especially if you are a reader with Idaho plates on your car.

Would I recommend this book liberally? No. It's not a perennial classic. Certain personalities will love it; others will flat out hate it. Both reactions are valid, I feel, in this case. There are things to be enjoyed and things to raise your eyebrows at.  If you are looking for a fun read and you want to know whether this book is worth your time, well, I don't feel altogether helpful except to tell you that Semple is a playful writer who seems as if she wants to have fun with a fun story. It isn't masterful by any stretch, but if you like a good comedy/drama on the screen, then you are probably of the inclination to like this story on the page as well. 

1 comment:

Pages to Remember said...

I've been a long-term reader of your blog. I have always found it helpful for finding books that I would never have tried otherwise. I enjoyed this post as I recently finished Where'd You Go, Bernadette. It is definitely a quirky book, but I found myself smiling as I read. I also wanted to thank you as it was your blog that inspired me to create my own. :)

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