Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where'd You Go Bernadette; Maria Semple

Little, Brown Co / Hachette- 2013

After so many readers raved about this book I had to give the audio version a try.

If you haven't read this one "Bernadette" is not your average mom. She's an Ivy league graduate, former award-winning architect and now a stay-at-home-mom after numerous miscarriages.  She lives with her husband Elgin, who is a big mucky muck at Microsoft. Her daughter Bee, her real name is Balakrishina because she was born blue with heart issues,  is  their miracle child. Bee is in the eight grade, and like her parents is super smart, having been awarded a place at the elite Choate boarding school. She'll be leaving home the next school year, but she is not the only one leaving home.

Bernadette is a mess. She has social anxiety, hates Seattle, doesn't get along with her neighbors or the other kid's moms. She even stays away from her daughter's school events, but Bee seems well adjusted and spunky despite this. However, just two days before Christmas Bee's mom disappears. Fifteen year old Bee is desperate to find her. Her father is concerned, but there seems to be less of a sense of urgency to for him to find Bernadette and bring her home.

The story is all over the place beginning with Bee's perfect report card which means that she gets her wish of a family cruise to Antarctica. Then there are emails from her mother's personal assistant in India, a woman who deals with the daily issues that Bernadette can no longer cope with. As the story progresses we learn more about Bernadette, by way of letters, newspaper stories and blog posts.  
 
I had a hard time sympathizing with any of the characters. Bernadette seemed like a complicated individual, but she also seemed like her her own worst enemy. The writing style while comical at times, had some touching moments, but overall, this was just not my thing. I enjoyed some of the humor, yet at other times it bugged me. I'm wondering whether I might have enjoyed this one more in print because of the structure or lack or structure it seemed.
 
The story was narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite, who did well with multiple voices, but the voice of young Bee, at times began to irk me.
 
3/5 stars
(library audiobook)

22 comments:

  1. I thought the daughter was the star in this story. Bernadette irritated me no end,

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  2. Readers seem a bit divided by this one - I am curious to discover which camp I will fall into!

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  3. I was hoping you'd loved it. Now I'm still not sure whether it is for me or not. As Vicki say, readers seem divided.

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  4. I liked it a bit more than you - I read it. One of my friends loved the audio. I agree it was difficult to sympathize with most of the characters. I liked the daughter most :)

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  5. I loved this one - I thought it was fun and thought Bee was a rational counterpoint to Bernadette's craziness. But, what's a good story without some craziness? With the structure of using emails, news stories, etc, I wonder how that translates to audio...

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  6. It's hard to sympathize with any of them in print either, but I liked it a bit more than you did.

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  7. I loved this. But it's always fun when a book has opposite reactions with people! :--)

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  8. The voice of Bee made her sound younger than she was, but I loved it. I "got" Bernadette right away. I think to a lot of readers to come off as being selfish and self-absorbed but as you said, she was her own worst enemy and I liked all her faults.

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  9. Hmm, haven't read it yet, was ambivalent, and it sounds awfully quirky (though that can be a fun read sometimes). I think I will pass on it since I have so many books I'm sure I would like and this one, not so sure. Thank.

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  10. And this is one of the reasons I follow your advice on books I haven't read. I read this book - it was very popular, and yet...

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  11. I have heard both good and bad about this book. Sometimes I think I should give it a try, but other times, I'm not so sure. I have a feeling I'd have a similar reaction as you. Regardless, it's not high on my to read list. There are so many other books I want to read right now. Deciding between them is hard enough!

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  12. After all the praise and adoration this book received I chose it to give away for World Book Night on Wednesday. Sadly, with the reading I've done for the Indeoendent Foreign Fiction prize I haven't gotten around to reading this particular book; now I wonder if I'll feel the same way you do about. Pretty sure that will be the case, friend.

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  13. I am really curious about this one. I just haven't had a chance to try it. On the one hand.. Not sure it is for me... On the other hand... I have heard good things.

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  14. I liked the craziness of this book. Different then what I usually read, though.

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  15. I definitely enjoyed this one more than you did, but I understand the reasons it didn't work for you. I think my expectations made it work for me. I thought it would be a fluffy comedy and instead I felt like it had more depth and honesty and I liked that.

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  16. Yay! Another member of the What's Big Deal About Bernadette? Club. I read it in 2012 and gave it a 2.75 :)

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  17. I'm listening to this right now and really enjoying it so far. I haven't gotten to the part where Bernadette disappears, though, so I definitely have a while to go!

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  18. I didn't like it in print. I don't think the audio would have been better. I was beginning to think I was the only one who was turned off!

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  19. You could've written my review; we had such similar reactions to this novel! I gave it a 3.5/5 and while writing my post, wondered if the print version would've been a better choice. If anything, this book would make for a good book club selection with its divided camps.

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  20. I tend to agree with you on this one. (I read the print version.) Great review!

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  21. I think I'll skip this one. It sounds as if all the problems the characters have might make for tedious reading. I appreciate your review. You saved me some time.

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  22. Although not quite raving, I did enjoy it. I read it in print. Not sure if I would have liked it as much in audio as it did move about quite a bit.

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