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Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
A Novel

A misanthropic matriarch leaves her eccentric family in crisis when she mysteriously disappears in this whip-smart and "divinely funny" novel that inspired the movie starring Cate Blanchett (New York Times).


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 her best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette vanishes. It all 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, and secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and surprisingly touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

A misanthropic matriarch leaves her eccentric family in crisis when she mysteriously disappears in this whip-smart and "divinely funny" novel that inspired the movie starring Cate Blanchett (New York Times).


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 her best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette vanishes. It all 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, and secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and surprisingly touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

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  • Available:
    0
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    5.4
  • Lexile:
    820
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    3 - 4

Recommended for you

About the Author-
  • Maria Semple is the author of This One Is Mine and Today Will Be Different. Before turning to fiction, she wrote for Mad About YouEllen, and Arrested Development. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker. She lives in Seattle.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 14, 2012
    In her second novel (after This One Is Mine), Semple pieces together a modern-day comic caper full of heart and ingenuity. Eighth-grader Bee is the daughter of Microsoft genius Elgin Branch and Bernadette Fox, a once-famous architect who has become a recluse in her Seattle home. Bee has a simple request: a family cruise to Antarctica as a reward for her good grades. Her parents acquiesce, but not without trepidation. Bernadette’s social anxiety has become so overwhelming that she’s employed a personal assistant from Delhi Virtual Assistants Intl. (who makes “$0.75 USD/hr.”) for tasks as simple as making dinner reservations. How will she survive three weeks on a boat with other live human beings? Maybe she won’t; a day before the trip, Bernadette disappears, and Bee gathers her mother’s invoices, e-mail correspondence, and emergency room bills in the hopes of finding clues as to where she went.The result is a compelling composite of a woman’s life—and the way she’s viewed by the many people who share it. As expected from a writer who has written episodes of Arrested Development, the nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying dénouement. Agent: Anna Stein, Aitken Alexander.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2012
    From Semple (This One Is Mine, 2008), a cleverly constructed Internet-age domestic comedy about a wife/mother/genius architect who goes a little nuts from living in that cesspool of perfection and bad weather called Seattle. Bernadette left Los Angeles years earlier after a professional disaster: After she won a MacArthur grant for building a house using only materials that originated within 20 miles of the site, vengeful neighbors had the house destroyed. Now she lives in Seattle with her equally genius husband, Elgie, who is working on a big project in artificial intelligence at Microsoft, and their genius eighth-grade daughter, Bee, whose devotion to her mother is one of the novel's least credible plot points. Bernadette may be brilliant and funny, but she is also mean-spirited and self-absorbed, with a definite case of entitlement that the author too frequently seems to share. She certainly hates everything about Seattle, especially the other mothers at Bee's crunchy-granola private school. Because she hates to leave her house, a crumbling ruin she's never bothered to renovate, she has hired a personal assistant in India to run her life via the Internet. After her vendetta against one of her Seattle mommy-enemies goes terribly awry, Elgie begins to wonder if she is having a mental breakdown. Meanwhile, Bernadette decides she wants to get out of a planned family trip to Antarctica. Days before the trip, in the middle of an intervention Elgie has plotted with his adoring administrative assistant, Bernadette disappears. To makes sense of the disappearance, Bee creates a book by collating the Internet postings, public records and private emails she has received from an anonymous source. Although there are wonderful scenes of deadpan absurdity--Semple wrote for Arrested Development--Seattle, already the butt of so much humor lately, seems an awfully easy mark. The tone is sharply witty if slightly condescending, but ultimately Semple goes for the heartstrings. A fun beach read for urban sophisticates or those who think they are.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2012

    To her Microsoft husband and the other private-school moms in Seattle, Bernadette Fox is a holy terror; to her 15-year-old, Bee, she's her beloved mom. But when Bee demands the trip to Antarctica she was promised for delivering a slam-dunk report card, the increasingly agoraphobic Bernadette disappears. Huge in-house excitement; rights sold to nine countries.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from July 1, 2012
    Bernadette Fox, practically a shut-in, who's hired a virtual assistant in India to remotely arrange every task, from hiring a gardener to planning the trip to Antarctica she's promised her star-student daughter, Bee seems pretty crazy. But don't be fooled. Suspicions that madcap Bernadette is as clever as her last name implies will be confirmed heartily. When she's party to some unfortunate events, her erratic behavior leads her husband, Microsoft guru Elgin Branch, to commit her to a local mental-health facility. But Bernadette intercepts his plan at the pass, escapes the staged intervention, and disappears without a trace. Though much of the story is told through documentse-mails, letters, magazine articlesprecocious young teen Bee as narrator is great company, entertaining and convincing in her comportment. TV writer Semple (Arrested Development) pokes fun at the Pacific Northwest as only a Seattlelite can and concocts a caper that, if seen from outer space, might be a mess but in the minutiae of its tangles is clear and rewarding. Under the guise of a hilarious romp, Semple explores the universal questions of why we do what we do and love what we love to some sweet and unexpected ends.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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    Little, Brown and Company
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Where'd You Go, Bernadette
A Novel
Maria Semple
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