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 a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It 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, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a disappointing read in which I did not understand its humor nor its characters as was promised by the book's blurb. Though cleverly constructed via emails and other various forms of documents, the book is essentially an offbeat domestic comedy about a wife/mother/genius architect named Bernadette who left Los Angeles years earlier after a professional disaster and neighbor drama that destroyed her house. 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 the only redeeming quality that I found in this book.
Bernadette may be brilliant and funny to some, but I found her to be mean and self absorbed with large doses of entitlement issues. She hates everything about Seattle, especially the other mothers at Bee's private school. After her vendetta against one of her Seattle mommy-enemies goes terribly awry, Elgie begins to wonder if Bernadette is having a mental breakdown. Meanwhile, Bernadette decides she wants to get out of a planned family trip to Antarctica. Days before the trip, Bernadette disappears. I didn't care for Bernadette at all and I could care less about what happened to her.
Like Bernadette, I also found Elgie to also be self centered and a workaholic who is oblivious to everything until it is too late. He stops and starts an affair with his sycophantic, lovesick, administrative assistant. Through it all it slowly dawns on him to take care of his precocious daughter, Bee.
Bee was the only character that I liked though I found it hard that she could care for such absent parents so much. It is she who tries to make sense of her mother's disappearance by creating a book by collecting the Internet postings, public records and private emails she has received from an anonymous source. Although there are moments when I chuckled, I thought this book tried too hard to be funny. It used the city of Seattle as the butt of its many jokes, many of which went over my head.
For me Where'd You Go, Bernadette was a chore to read, but some might find it to be a fun beach read and might appreciate the book's humor and quirky characters.
Rating: 2 stars
Words of Caution: There is some strong language sprinkled throughout the book and it also contains allusions to sexual situations. Recommended for teens and adults.
If you like this book try: Dometic Violets by Matthew Norman, Truth in Advertising by John Kenney