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.'