Bernadette has a problem — well, actually, she has a few ... She can be vocal, inclined toward sharing her opinions with her adolescent daughter Bee and brilliant, patient husband. Her opinions — they are the problem. In one context, they are funny riffs; taken out of context, they can look like rants. And maybe a little insane ... The story of the weeks leading to her disappearance and what happens after is told by Bee, who loves her mother, idiosyncrasies and all. Bright and endlessly curious, Bee assembles a variety of documents — emails, memos, handwritten exchanges, magazine articles, police reports — and links them with a few personal observations. It's an epistolary novel, modern style ... Semple's characters are marvelous: They have untold secrets, personalities with multiple dimensions, moments of failure and grace ...this book does not fall in my sweet spot. A warm and humorous family drama, set in an upscale suburb, narrated by an unusually intelligent teenager — all those descriptors typically would send me running.
What happens when a talented, Type A, hyperachieving woman married to an even more successful man quits working? ... Not so Semple's delightfully sharp-clawed second novel, a comic caper called Where'd You Go, Bernadette, about a wonderfully eccentric, vitriolic, MacArthur-winning former architect and the plucky teenage daughter determined to find her when she goes missing ... Semple has constructed an energetic screwball comedy, interweaving a lively mix of police and FBI reports, school documents and catty, indiscreet emails written by her various characters ... There's a lot to like in Semple's charming novel, including the vivacious humor and the lesson that when creative forces like Bernadette stop creating, they become 'a menace to society.' Even more appealing is the mutually adoring mother-daughter relationship at its warm heart.
On the opening page, we learn that Bernadette — the wife of an upper-level Microsoft executive and mother of a 15-year-old girl — has gone missing. The novel takes the shape of a scrapbook compiled by her daughter, Bee, in an attempt to make sense of the months leading up to her mom's disappearance ... But Bee actually is an excellent girl, and a reliable narrator in a novel rich with fools ... The ending is a bit weaker than the beginning. The opening is more comic, clearly a farce, making it easy to forgive lapses of plausibility ... Still, this book mirrors its main character: original, brilliant and lovable in spite of its flaws ...is a novel about the relationship between a mother and daughter, and a daughter's attempt to understand her mother better, in particular the way that she needs to be creative in order to be her full self ... It's the rare book that actually deserves the term 'laugh-out-loud funny.'
...Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple's hilarious sendup of 21st-century Seattle's affluent elite and the spell it's cast over our formerly funky city ...love this multilayered farce, which skewers the pretensions of Seattle's new money like nothing you're likely to read for a good long while ... Bee, the family glue, labors heroically to keep her mom and dad together, but things start to fall apart when Bernadette contracts with a 'virtual assistant,' based in India...achingly funny and perfectly timed until Bernadette actually flees her troubles ... Semple has a big heart, and possesses that rare ability to skewer, dissect and empathize with her targets, all at the same time.
In former TV writer Maria Semple's new novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, the central character is Bernadette Fox, a once-promising architect ... Bernadette is as destroyed as her masterpiece ... Bernadette spends her days avoiding her maids and gardeners to shop on the Internet from the backyard Airstream trailer Bee calls the Petit Trianon after Marie Antoinette's Versailles getaway ... She vanishes. The adoring Bee persuades her father to help her seek Bernadette to the ends of the Earth: Antarctica ... Yes, a few lives and careers are wrecked. (Elgie's affair with his secretary felt too dark for this plot.) But that's the price of loving a genius, the author seems to say. Worth every embarrassment and heartache ... Ms. Semple's writing is deft but not enough to make this fact funny ...a constructive read for those convinced they're too brilliant for this world. But then again, maybe not.
Maria Semple's witty, engaging novel takes the form of a collage of documents, emails, transcripts, liveblogs, FBI reports and magazine articles, all strung together by Bee Branch, a smart and articulate 15-year-old girl, but beneath this surface playfulness is a fascinating story of one woman's retreat from the world ... Bee's mother is Bernadette Fox, a renowned architect whose work ('She was built green before there was green') once earned her a MacArthur genius grant, but after the birth of her daughter she simply stops ... Then the family go on a trip to Antarctica, which appears to give Bernadette the opportunity she needs to erase herself further, to vanish entirely into the white ...she gets in a few good digs at Seattle, self-help culture and the American private school system, but she also handles the metaphoric weight of Bernadette's disappearing act with real skill ... The jokiness of tone and insistent kookiness can grate at times and the transition from the epistolary to a more conventional style of writing in the last third of the book is also something of a jolt, but as a portrait of motherhood as something emotionally draining and frustrating.
Her second full-length book, the impossibly clever character study-cum-escape fantasy Where’d You Go Bernadette is a gas ... Semple gleefully and skillfully skewers tony private-school PTAs, Seattle’s self-righteous eco-culture, helicopter parenting, software gurus and architecture fetishism — all ripe for skillful skewering — while maintaining a refreshing snarklessness that’s been woefully missing from so much contemporary comic writing today ...Supporting characters steal scenes with aplomb ... the story of Bernadette’s apparent descent (ascent?) into eccentricity and subsequent disappearance is narrated by Bee ...outrageously funny and deceptively deep, is a rewarding read.
Told mostly in far-ranging letters, emails, bills, reports and other documents, this is the story of 15-year-old Bee ("Balakrishna") Branch, whose stellar report card from Galer Street, her Seattle middle school, topples the first domino in a string of hilarious (and yet often poignant) events ... As the time for the family vacation draws near, a series of exorbitantly wild disasters occur. Before anyone knows quite what is happening, Bernadette is missing. Her daughter is determined to find her and chronicles her steadfast faith in her eventual reunion with Bernadette ...a sassy page-turner, filled with sardonic commentary on parenting, progressive schools, Seattle, the life of the privileged, and more.
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 ... 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 ... Bee creates a book by collating the Internet postings, public records and private emails she has received from an anonymous source ... The tone is sharply witty if slightly condescending, but ultimately Semple goes for the heartstrings.