The bestseller, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was presented to me as an option for the RCM Book Club some months ago. There were other options, and as is my custom, I read the back cover of each one. People magazine proclaimed Bernadette “an uproarious comedy of manners” and Redbook declared that I would “laugh my pants off”. As I was in the mood for fun, Bernadette won out. It took me only three nights to read it. Here’s why.
She’s Totally Relatable
Bernadette is a character I can very much relate to. She is introverted and as socially awkward as I am. She is also prone to anxiety and worry. She summed up some of the nights I had been having recently when, in emailing a friend, she said:
Where’d You Go, Bernadette is not what I expected at all. The story is told through a series of letters, articles, emails, transcripts of FBI interviews and even an emergency room bill. This might be annoying to some readers and at times, I found that I had to slow down a bit to really pay attention. However, this format drives the story and allows an insight into everyone that would not have been possible if the story had been told in the traditional way. Maria Semple was a screenwriter for Mad About You and producer of Arrested Development fame so I only have one word for it: genius.
More quirkiness: the plot never went where I expected. Ever. And on occasion, while it didn’t exactly go directly into the dark side, it definitely flirted around the edges.
But as with real life, finding humor amidst the darker side of life is a key to surviving it and Semple does this brilliantly. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is almost slap-stick but definitely satire, focused on the suburban Seattle mom scene with children in private school and based largely upon Semple’s own experience when she and her family moved there some years before. As I’m reading, I’m saying “Oh no! That’s terrible!”, but I am also “laughing my pants off”, just like Redbook promised.
At RCM Book Club, we try to be intentional about selecting books that showcase different or hilarious perspectives and viewpoints of motherhood. If we can accomplish that with one book, all the better. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the quirkiness of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I learned that all kinds of mothers can be good mothers, a huge comfort to me, a first-time mom. All it really takes is a love for my child and a willingness to admit my mistakes. In the end, I can only promise my kid, indeed myself, what Bernadette promises her daughter, Bee at the end of the story: to move forward.
Let me know what you think of the book. I think it will be a very fun read over the Holidays. And Happy Holidays from me and mine to you and yours!
Don’t forget to join us for our online book club as we discuss Where’d You Go, Bernadette on January 12th, 2017 – all RCM Readers welcome!
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Shannan Moore Malone squeezes in the time to write while taking care of the Buddy Man. As you already know, she loves books but she also loves great movies, running, and is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a foodie. Though generally more on the quiet side, you can get her talking by mentioning living authentically, the importance of clarity and organization, and enjoying life, which she occasionally writes about on her blog her blog and posts about on Instagram @shannanenjoyslife.