Monday, September 10, 2012

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

From: Suko
To: My Readers

Here I go again, writing in epistolary form.  I'm writing this as a letter, because I've just read Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, published in 2012, a book comprised of communications such as email messages and letters, with the exception of the words of the book's youngest main narrator, 15-year-old Bee, who writes in regular text.  I also wrote my review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows in letter form, so I hope you will not be too dismayed that I'm doing this again.  Honestly, it's so much fun to write in this way that I could not resist; I discovered this when I had to write a secret letter to my daughter before she embarked on an overnight field trip on the Star of India ship in fourth grade.  It was great fun to draft a dramatic, fictitious letter (which included a made-up allusion to a relative with a drinking problem) to be read out loud by the captain.  So bear with me, dear readers!  Maria Semple's book simply reminded me of how pleasurable it is to write in this way, which seems to give a person more freedom to be inventive.

So what did I think about this book? Before I reveal anything, I need to give you a bit of background information.  A few years ago, I read and reviewed Maria Semple's first novel, This One is Mine.  Over this past spring (and into the summer), I started watching episodes of Arrested Development (my "new" favorite show, which I find absolutely hilarious), and eventually noticed Maria Semple's name in the credits. To me, this was an astonishing discovery, as a new fan of the show.  I wanted to interview her.  Well, she graciously declined the interview but generously offered to have her agent send me a copy of her latest book. I was fine with that.  Her new book had already received a plethora of very favorable reviews, so I felt lucky to be getting a copy.

My dear, patient readers, I will take advantage of you no more. What did I think about Where'd You Go, Bernadette--the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?  It would be all too easy to resort to the simple, unsophisticated ways I described the book to family members (who may well have doubted my integrity as a semi-professional book blogger) while I was reading this book with the quirky title, using the most nondescript and ordinary statements such as, "it's really good", or "it's really funny".  But you know what?  It really is.  My family heard me chortle (charming word, eh?) more than a few times. The characters are both engaging and endearing, and I enjoyed the story being told in multiple perspectives, from the points of view of Bee, Bernadette Fox, Elgie, Manjula Kapoor, Audrey Griffin, Soo-Lin Lee-Segal, Ollie-O, and others.  It's a very clever and creative way to present the story of ex-architect and MacArthur genius award winner Bernadette Fox, now an agoraphobic mother with a virtual assistant in Delhi and a low tolerance for "gnats", who has disappeared just prior to the family's planned excursion to Antarctica.  It may sound utterly wacky, but truthfully, this book is extremely entertaining, nothing short of brilliant.  It was fun to read, and remarkably funny.  Among other things, Maria Semple makes fun of the main setting of the book, Seattle (where the author lives), but, no worries--this only whetted my desire to visit this great city (the birthplace of and Starbucks!). 

Maria Semple does what she does best with this book: entertain!  Where'd You Go, Bernadette is one of my favorite books of the year so far, and certainly, the funniest.  And it reminded me of something to always keep in mind as a writer: you need to entertain.  You cannot be boring.  Not even for a nanosecond.

Thanks for reading,


  1. You have sold me on this book. I will have to look for it. Very nice epistolary review today!

    1. Harvee, Under My Apple Tree is having a fabulous giveaway for this book currently! Please check the giveaway links on the right side of my blog.

  2. I love books written in an epistolary format so this sounds great to me! Your review was fun!

  3. A book composed of letters and emails is not generally to my taste, it was one of the reasons I didn't enjoy The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but this does sound good and I like the fact that you chose to do your review in this way.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, very sharp and funny. And the format works so well you forget you're not reading a narrative.

  5. I'm finishing the last 100 pages today, and am quite entertained!

  6. This is a book that I have been hearing great things about, and can't wait to read! I love spontaneity and humor, so I would probably be laughing out loud at those moments as well. Great review today!

  7. This looks really good and I love the cover!

  8. Great epistolary review Suko! This one sounds like a wonderful read and what a cute cover. I'll definitely keep an eye out for this book.

  9. Nice review, and I like a book with a bit of humor thrown in, makes it more fun to read.

  10. I really enjoyed it too! I was surprised, in fact, by how much I liked it. It did keep me entertained from the first page to the last!

  11. I love books written in different formats (like e-mail or letters) and I wrote my review for the Guernsey book in the same way! This cover has caught my eye quite a few times but now you make me want to read it. And Arrested Development is one of the greatest shows of all time!!!

  12. Very witty book! The varying formats fit the off-beat story, which had me laughing all the way through. Touching, yet humorous look at families and relationships. Enjoyed every minute!

    Zaira Lynn (Seattle IT Consultant)


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