Book Review: Where Did You Go, Bernadette?
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.
My Thoughts: I was disappointed in this book. I realized that the book was a string of emails, faxes (really? faxes?) conversations, and snail mail, that lead up to the disappearance of Bernadette, but the woman didn't even disappear until page 214 (out of 326)! Once she did disappear, the last 100 pages were rushed and like a lot of the book, not believable. I know: do I have to expect every book I read to be believable? Isn't that the point of books: to be transported to another world where we can let our imaginations run a little wild? I guess, but if I'm going to get caught up in the unbelievable, I want to at least like the characters. And, I couldn't really like any of them, except sometimes Bee. I found myself drifting a lot and couldn't stay hooked on the story.
Two user reviews on goodreads, I agreed with:
Bernadette has the potential for being an extremely interesting character. However, between her ravenous and delusional tirades, I quickly lost interest in her story and what led her to become this woman, and instead just wanted her to shut up. Seeing as the book is centered around her, it seems that the author got too caught up in all of the other characters until the last 100 pages, remembered the book was about Bernadette, and quickly threw in the bit about her disappearing. This part (and most important part) of the story felt rushed and sloppily handled.
Mama Kaye wrote:
By the end (and the ending was fairly abrupt and unsatisfying, IMO), I didn't feel that I had really come to a better understanding of any of the characters, most of whom engage in fairly preposterous behavior throughout the story. I suppose that if you read it simply as a funny and satirical take on life in Seattle and the pretensions and hypocrisies of the American upper class, it's worthwhile. There's no question that portions of it are very funny and entertaining. However, beyond that, I didn't see much value in it.
The author said after writing the book that without even trying, the theme of the book came to be: "to know someone, is to love them." Most of these characters didn't really know each other. The only person who really knew Bernadette was her daughter, Bee, and she really does love her mother. Bernadette and her husband never talked and hardly even saw each other. Her husband is told things about his wife from other people, never verifies or even asks her if they are true, (except to try and broach the subject at an inappropriate time at a nice restaurant with their daughter and her friend) and then just decides to have her committed to a mental institution! I couldn't tell if the author wanted me to feel sorry for Bernadette, or her husband, but either way I felt sorry for neither. Through this family not really knowing each other, and completely avoiding each other, a whole slew of misunderstandings and miscommunications ensue. While that is a plausible scenario for many families, I was left very unsatisfied with the conclusion, and the story as a whole.