Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

UnknownWhere’d You Go, Bernadette?
by Maria Semple
2013 / 352 pages
read by Kathleen Wiltholte 9h 39m
rating:  8 / contemp fiction – humorous

This is a very funny, hilarious (?),  and generally good-natured satire of contemporary society with emphasis on mental issues and support groups,  the nouveau riche, the tech industry and tech in general,  more – .  Semple’s  brush is broad.

Bernadette Fox is the brilliant but very strange wife of Elgin Branch, a Microsoft executive, and the mother to Bee , their precocious 14-year old student at a private school.  The very upper-middle class family now lives in Seattle,  but don’t  really “fit” with the attitudes of old Seattle people she meets through Bee’s school. Besides,  Bernadette doesn’t really get along with other people except her husband.  She is also a highly regarded architect who is in hiding from everyone except her husband and daughter.

The book opens with Bea bringing a perfect report card home and her parents agreeing to a trip to Antarctica as a reward. This sends Bernadette into a tizzy. She does NOT want to be around people.

As the novel progresses in various letters, notes, etc. from many people including Bernadette, it becomes apparent that Bernadette has more problems than just interacting with other people. She has problems with one mother from Bee’s school who is also her neighbor.  But everyone in this book, except Bee, has some grave issues – and we hear from most of them via the letters and notes, etc.

Much of the narrative is taken up with various back-stories to indicate the intensity of her strangeness/madness. Her husband asks her to seek psychiatric hep and finally refers her himself.

And then we find out that Bernadette is a gifted architect who after some losses dropped out, ran away, is in hiding.

The narrator can be annoying with hysterical screeching of Bernadette,  Bee, their neighbor and another woman.

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