Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple tells the story of a family, particularly a woman, who is a little “odd” and completely misunderstood by everyone. Misunderstood, but, throughout the novel, revealed—and redeemed.
As the title suggests, Bernadette, mother of Bee, goes missing. The novel, however, is more than simply a tale of how she goes missing and the madness that ensues; Bee, the narrator, goes deeper to tell why. Bee’s investigates the events originating from months prior, and readers can get to know each of the characters and walk around in their lives for a bit before things get complicated. They are privy to the secrets that Bernadette and the “gnats” keep from one another and their families, can witness the drama firsthand. Bee reads emails, police transcripts, messages between the neighbors that loathed Bernadette so strongly, to understand and share with readers who were mother truly is and why she did what she did. It is through these various mediums that the story is told.
The characters in this story were extremely unique and complex. It is difficult to fully understand Bernadette. It is helpful to see what she goes through as both a woman, but it seems as though sometimes her personality wavers.
What is more well-founded and clear, though, is Bee’s fierce love for her mother. Their relationship and banter is similar to that of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, as well as, perhaps, readers themselves. They rang true, and was often hilarious. The scene in the car where they sing the Beatles was special. Truthfully, such scenes were far too brief, too rare. Such situations made the crazy events more realistic.
For many of the situations throughout the story that the characters find themselves in are just that: crazy. So many ridiculous things happen, unbelievable things, that the reader is reminded of it continuously. But the point is that they are surprised, suspended, and amused. And they are.
Sometimes things are clarified with later emails; sometimes things are confusing only to be explained in detail later on. Regardless, the events, be they funny, sad, exciting, or strange—keep the story moving at a quick, fun pace. For this book is certainly many things: twisty and exciting, relatable, outlandishly dramatic, complicated, and even thought-provoking. Most of all, though, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is completely and ridiculously fun.