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Where'd You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple
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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 her best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette vanishes. It all 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, and secret correspondence — creating a compulsively readable and surprisingly touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Today Will Be Different
Reading Group Guide
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The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, "What's most important is for you to understand it's not your fault." You'll notice that wasn't even the question. When I press him, he says the second annoying thing, "The truth is complicated. There's no way one person can ever know everything about another person."
Mom disappears into thin air two days before Christmas without telling me? Of course it's complicated. Just because it's complicated, just because you think you can't ever know everything about another person, it doesn't mean you can't try.
It doesn't mean I can't try.
Mom Versus the Gnats
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15
Galer Street School is a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet.
Student: Bee Branch
KEY S Surpasses Excellence A Achieves Excellence W Working towards Excellence
Geometry S Biology S World Religion S Music S Creative Writing S Ceramics S Language Arts S Expressive Movement S
COMMENTS: Bee is a pure delight. Her love of learning is infectious, as are her kindness and humor. Bee is unafraid to ask questions. Her goal is always deep understanding of a given topic, not merely getting a good grade. The other students look to Bee for help in their studies, and she is always quick to respond with a smile. Bee exhibits extraordinary concentration when working alone; when working in a group, she is a quiet and confident leader. Of special note is what an accomplished flutist Bee continues to be. The year is only a third over, but already I am mourning the day Bee graduates from Galer Street and heads out into the world. I understand she is applying to boarding schools back east. I envy the teachers who get to meet Bee for the first time, and to discover for themselves what a lovely young woman she is.
That night at dinner, I sat through Mom and Dad's "We're-so-proud-of-you"s and "She's-a-smart-one"s until there was a lull.
"You know what it means," I said. "The big thing it means."
Mom and Dad frowned question marks at each other.
"You don't remember?" I said. "You told me when I started Galer Street that if I got perfect grades the whole way through, I could have anything I wanted for a graduation present."
"I do remember," Mom said. "It was to ward off further talk of a pony."
"That's what I wanted when I was little," I said. "But now I want something different. Aren't you curious what it is?"
"I'm not sure," Dad said. "Are we?"
"A family trip to Antarctica!" I pulled out the brochure I'd been sitting on. It was from an adventure travel company that does cruises to exotic places. I opened it to the Antarctica page and passed it across the table. "If we go, it has to be over Christmas."
"This Christmas?" Mom said. "Like in a month?" She got up and started stuffing empty take-out containers into the bags they'd been delivered in.
Dad was already deep into the brochure. "It's their summer," he said. "It's the only time you can go."
"Because ponies are cute." Mom tied the handles in a knot.
"What do you say?" Dad looked up at Mom.
"Isn't this a bad time for you because of work?" she asked him.
"We're studying Antarctica," I said. "I've read all the explorers' journals, and I'm doing my presentation on Shackleton." I started wiggling in my chair. "I can't believe it. Neither of you are saying no."
"I was waiting for you," Dad said to Mom. "You hate to travel."
"I was waiting for you," Mom said back. "You have to work."
"Oh my God. That's a yes!" I jumped out of my chair. "That's a yes!" My joy was so infectious that Ice Cream woke up and started barking and doing victory laps around the kitchen table.
"Is that a yes?" Dad asked Mom over the crackling of plastic take-out containers being crammed into the trash.
"That's a yes," she said.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16
From: Bernadette Fox
To: Manjula Kapoor
Something unexpected has come up and I'd love it if you could work extra hours. From my end, this trial period has been a lifesaver. I hope it's working for you, too. If so, please let me know ASAP because I need you to work your Hindu magic on a huge project.
OK: I'll stop being coy.
You know I have a daughter, Bee. (She's the one you order the medicine for and wage valiant battle with the insurance company over.) Apparently, my husband and I told her she could have anything she wanted if she graduated middle school with straight A's. The straight A's have arrived—or should I say straight S's, because Galer Street is one of those liberal, grades-erode-self-esteem-type schools (let's hope you don't have them in India)—and so what does Bee want? To take a family trip to Antarctica!
Of the million reasons I don't want to go to Antarctica, the main one is that it will require me to leave the house. You might have figured out by now that's something I don't much like to do. But I can't argue with Bee. She's a good kid. She has more character than Elgie and I and the next ten guys combined. Plus she's applying to boarding school for next fall, which she'll of course get into because of said A's. Whoops, S's! So it would be in pretty bad taste to deny Buzzy this.
The only way to get to Antarctica is by cruise ship. Even the smallest one has 150 passengers, which translates into me being trapped with 149 other people who will uniquely annoy the hell out of me with their rudeness, waste, idiotic questions, incessant yammering, creepy food requests, boring small talk, etc. Or worse, they might turn their curiosity toward me, and expect pleasantry in return. I'm getting a panic attack just thinking about it. A little social anxiety never hurt anyone, am I right?
If I give you the info, could you pretty please take over the paperwork, visas, plane tickets, everything involved with getting we three from Seattle to the White Continent? Is this something you have time for?
Oh! You already have credit card numbers to pay for airfare, trip, and accoutrements. But in terms of your salary, I'd like you to take it directly out of my personal account. When Elgie saw the Visa charge for your work last month—even though it wasn't much money—he wasn't thrilled that I'd hired a virtual assistant from India. I told him I wouldn't be using you anymore. So, if we could, Manjula, let's keep our romance an illicit one.
From: Manjula Kapoor
To: Bernadette Fox
Dear Ms. Fox,
It would be my pleasure to assist you with your family travel plans to Antarctica. Attached please find the contract for moving forward on a full-time basis. Where indicated, please include your bank routing number. I look forward to our continued collaboration.
Invoice from Delhi Virtual Assistants International
Invoice Number: BFB39382
Associate: Manjula Kapoor
40 hours a week at $0.75 USD/hr.
Invoice Due in Full upon Receipt
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17
Letter from Ollie Ordway ("Ollie-O")
TO GALER STREET SCHOOL PARENT ASSOCIATION
It was terrific to meet you last week. I'm thrilled to have been brought in to consult for the wonderful Galer Street School. Head of School Goodyear promised a motivated Parent Association, and you didn't disappoint.
Let's talk turkey: in three years you're losing your lease on your current location. Our goal is to launch a capital campaign so you will be able to purchase a larger, more suitable campus. For those of you who couldn't attend the meeting, here's the drill-down:
I conducted an off-site consisting of 25 parents in the Seattle area with an income of $200K+ and whose children are entering kindergarten. The headline is that Galer Street is considered a second-tier school, a fallback option for those who don't get accepted to their first-choice school.
Our objective is to move the needle on Galer Street and kick it up into the First-Choice Cluster (FCC) for Seattle's elite. How do we achieve this? What is the secret sauce?
Your mission statement says Galer Street is based on global "connectitude." (You people don't just think outside the box, you think outside the dictionary!) You received some impressive big-media coverage for the cows you bought for the Guatemalans and the solar cookstoves you sent to the African villagers. While raising small sums of money for people you've never met is commendable, you need to start raising large sums of money for your own children's private school. To do this, you must emancipate yourselves from what I am calling Subaru Parent mentality and start thinking more like Mercedes Parents. How do Mercedes Parents think? My research indicates the following:
1. The choice of private schools is both fear-based and aspirational. Mercedes Parents are afraid their children won't get "the best education possible," which has nothing to do with actual education and everything to do with the number of other Mercedes Parents at a school.
2. When applying to kindergarten, Mercedes Parents have their eyes on the prize. And that prize is Lakeside School, alma mater of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, et al. Lakeside is considered the feeder school to the Ivy League. Let me rock it straight: the first stop on this crazy train is Kindergarten Junction, and nobody gets off until it pulls into Harvard Station.
Head of School Goodyear took me on a tour of your current campus at the industrial park. Apparently, Subaru Parents have no problem sending their children to a school adjacent to a wholesale seafood distributor. Let me assure you, Mercedes Parents do.
All roads lead to raising the money to buy a new campus. The best way to achieve it is to pack the incoming kindergarten class with Mercedes Parents.
Grab your crampons because we have an uphill climb. But fear not: I do underdog. Based on your budget, I have devised a two-pronged action plan.
The first action item is a redesign of the Galer Street logo. Much as I love clip-art handprints, let's try to find an image that better articulates success. A coat of arms divided into four, with images of the Space Needle, a calculator, a lake (as in Lakeside), and something else, maybe some kind of ball? I'm just throwing out some ideas here, nothing's set in stone.
The second action item is to hold a Prospective Parent Brunch (PPB), which we aim to fill with Seattle's elite, or, as I have grown fond of saying, Mercedes Parents. Galer Street parent Audrey Griffin has generously offered to host this gathering at her lovely home. (Best to keep away from the fishery.)
Attached please find a spreadsheet listing Seattle Mercedes Parents. It is imperative that you go over this list and tell me who you can deliver to the PPB. We're looking for the watershed get we can then squawk as leverage toward securing other Mercedes Parents. When they all see one another, it will alleviate their fears about Galer Street being a second-tier school and the applications will roll in.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm working on the invite. Get me those names ASAP. We need to take this brunch at the Griffins' house live before Christmas. Saturday, December 11, is my target date. This puppy has all the ingredients of an epic kilt lifter.
Note from Audrey Griffin to a blackberry abatement specialist
I was out in my garden, cutting back the perennials and planting some winter color in preparation for a school brunch we're hosting on December 11. I went to turn the compost and got attacked by blackberry vines.
I'm shocked to see that they have returned, not only in the compost pile, but in my raised vegetable beds, greenhouse, and even my worm bin. You can imagine my frustration, especially since you charged me a small fortune to remove them three weeks ago. (Maybe $235 isn't a lot for you, but it's a lot for us.)
Your flyer said you guarantee your work. So, please, could you come back and remove all the blackberries by the 11th, this time for good?
Blessings, and help yourself to some chard,
Note from Tom, the blackberry abatement specialist
I did remove the blackberries on your property. The source of the vines you're talking about is your neighbor's house at the top of the hill. Their blackberries are the ones coming under your fence and into your garden.
To stop them, we could dig a trench at your property line and pour a concrete barrier, but it would need to be five feet deep, and that would be costly. You could also keep on top of them with weed killer, which I'm not sure you want to do because of the worms and the vegetables.
What really has to happen is the neighbor at the top of the hill has to eradicate their vines. I've never seen so many blackberries growing wild in the city of Seattle, especially on Queen Anne Hill, with your home prices. I saw a house on Vashon Island where the whole foundation was cracked by blackberry vines.
Since the neighbor's bushes are on a steep hillside, they're going to need a special machine. The best one is the CXJ Hillside Side-Arm Thrasher. I don't have one of those myself.
Another option, and a better one in my opinion, is large pigs. You can rent a couple, and in a week's time, they'll pull out those blackberries by the roots and then some. Plus, they're dang cute.
Do you want me to talk to the neighbor? I can go knock on the door. But it looks like nobody lives there.
Let me know.
From: Soo-Lin Lee-Segal
To: Audrey Griffin
I told you I'm starting to take the shuttle bus in to work, right? Well, guess who I rode in with this morning? Bernadette's husband, Elgin Branch. (I know why I have to save money by taking the Microsoft Connector. But Elgin Branch?) I wasn't certain it was him at first, that's how little we all see of him at school.
So you're going to love this. There was only one seat available, and it was next to Elgin Branch, an inside one between him and the window.
"Excuse me," I said.
He was furiously typing on his laptop. Without looking up, he moved his knees to the side. I know he's a Level 80 corporate VP, and I'm just an admin. But most gentlemen would stand up to let a woman through. I squeezed past him and sat down.
"Looks like we're going to finally be getting some sunshine," I said.
"That would be great."
"I'm really looking forward to World Celebration Day," I said. He looked a little frightened, like he had no idea who I was. "I'm Lincoln's mom. From Galer Street."
"Of course!" he said. "I'd love to chat, but I've got to get this email out." He grabbed some headphones from around his neck, put them over his ears, and returned to his laptop. And get this—his headphones weren't even plugged in! They were those sound-canceling ones! The whole ride to Redmond he never spoke to me again.
Now, Audrey, for the past five years we always figured Bernadette was the ghastly one. Turns out her husband is as rude and antisocial as she is! I was so miffed that when I got to work, I Googled Bernadette Fox. (Something I can't believe I've waited until now to do, considering our unhealthy obsession with her!) Everyone knows Elgin Branch is team leader of Samantha 2 at Microsoft. But when I looked her up, nothing appeared. The only Bernadette Fox is some architect in California. I checked all combinations of her name—Bernadette Branch, Bernadette Fox-Branch. But our Bernadette, Bee's mom, doesn't exist as far as the Internet is concerned. Which, these days, is quite an accomplishment in itself.
On another topic, don't you love Ollie-O? I was crushed when Microsoft ten-percented him last year. But if that hadn't happened, we'd never have been able to hire him to rebrand our little school.
Here at Microsoft, SteveB just called a town hall for the Monday after Thanksgiving. The rumor mill is going crazy. My PM asked me to book a meeting room for the hours just prior, and I'm hard-pressed to find one. That can mean only one thing: another round of layoffs. (Happy holidays!) Our team leader heard some scuttlebutt that our project was getting canceled, so he found the biggest email thread he could, wrote "Microsoft is a dinosaur whose stock is going to zero," then hit Reply All. Never a good thing. Now I'm worried they're going to punish the whole org and that I won't land well. Or I might not land at all! What if that meeting room I booked was for my own firing?
Oh, Audrey, please keep me, Alexandra, and Lincoln in your prayers. I don't know what I'd do if I got managed out. The benefits here are gold-plated. If I still have a job after the holidays, I'll be happy to cover some of the food costs for the prospective parent brunch.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Note from Audrey Griffin to the blackberry abatement specialist
You'd think nobody lives in that big old haunted house above us, judging by the state of their yard. In fact, someone does. Their daughter, Bee, is in Kyle's class at Galer Street. I'd be thrilled to raise the subject of her blackberry bushes with the mother at pickup today.
Pigs? No pigs. Do take some chard, though.
From: Bernadette Fox
To: Manjula Kapoor
I'm ecstatic you said yes!!! I've signed and scanned everything. Here's the deal with Antarctica. It will be three of us, so get two rooms. Elgie has a ton of miles on American, so let's try for three tickets that way. Our winter break dates are December 23 through January 5. If we have to miss a little school, that's fine. And the dog! We must find someplace willing to board a 130-pound, perpetually damp dog. Ooh—I'm late picking up Bee at school. Again, THANK YOU.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Note from Ms. Goodyear sent home in our weekend folders
Word has spread about the incident at pickup yesterday. Luckily, nobody was hurt. But it gives us the opportunity to pause and revisit the rules outlined in the Galer Street handbook. (Italics mine.)
Section 2A. Article ii. There are two ways to pick up students.
By Car: Drive your vehicle to the school entrance. Please be mindful not to block the loading dock for Sound Seafood International.
On Foot: Please park in the north lot and meet your children on the canal path. In the spirit of safety and efficiency, we ask that parents on foot do not approach the drive-up area.
It always inspires me that we have such a wonderful community of parents who are so engaged with one another. However, the safety of our students is always top priority. So let's use what happened to Audrey Griffin as a teachable moment, and remember to save our conversations for coffee, not the driveway.
Head of School
Emergency-room bill Audrey Griffin gave to me to give to Mom
Patient name: Audrey Griffin
Attending Physician: C. Cassella
|Emergency Room Visitation Fee||900.00|
|X Ray (Elective, NOT COVERED)||425.83|
|Rx: Vicodin 10MG (15 tablets, 0 refills)||95.70|
|Crutch Rental (Elective, NOT COVERED)||173.00|
Notes: Visual inspection and basic neurological examination revealed no injury. Patient in acute emotional distress, demanded X ray, Vicodin, and crutches.
From: Soo-Lin Lee-Segal
To: Audrey Griffin
I heard Bernadette tried to run you over at pickup! Are you OK? Should I come by with dinner? WHAT HAPPENED?
From: Audrey Griffin
To: Soo-Lin Lee-Segal
It's all true. I needed to talk to Bernadette about her blackberry bushes, which are growing down her hill, under my fence, and invading my garden. I was forced to hire a specialist, who said Bernadette's blackberries are going to destroy the foundation of my home.
Naturally, I wanted to have a friendly chat with Bernadette. So I walked up to her car while she was in the pickup line. Mea culpa! But how else are you ever going to get a word with that woman? She's like Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You see her only from the waist up, driving past. I don't think she has once gotten out of her car to walk Bee into school.
I tried talking to her, but her windows were rolled up and she pretended not to see me. You'd think she was the first lady of France, with her silk scarf flung just so and huge dark glasses. I knocked on her windshield, but she drove off.
Over my foot! I went to the emergency room and got an incompetent doctor, who refused to accept that there was anything wrong with me.
Honestly, I don't know who I'm more furious at, Bernadette Fox or Gwen Goodyear, for calling me out in the Friday Folder. You'd think I did something wrong! And mentioning me, but not Bernadette, by name! I created the Diversity Council. I invented Donuts for Dads. I wrote Galer Street's mission statement, which that fancy company in Portland was going to charge us ten thousand dollars for.
Maybe Galer Street is happy renting in an industrial park. Maybe Galer Street doesn't want the stability of owning its new campus. Maybe Gwen Goodyear would like me to cancel the Prospective Parent Brunch. I have a call in to her now. I'm not the least bit happy.
The phone is ringing. It's her.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Note from Ms. Goodyear sent home in the Monday Messenger
This is to clarify that Bernadette Fox, Bee Branch's mother, was driving the vehicle that ran over the other parent's foot. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend despite the rain.
Head of School
If someone had asked me, I could have told them what happened at pickup. It took me awhile to get in the car because Mom always brings Ice Cream and lets her sit in the front. Once that dog gets the front seat, she does not like to give it up. So Ice Cream was doing the thing she does when she wants to get her way, which is to go completely rigid and stare straight ahead.
"Mom!" I said. "You shouldn't let her get in the front—"
"She just jumped in." Mom pulled Ice Cream's collar and I shoved her butt and after a lot of grunting, Ice Cream finally got in the back. But she didn't sit on the seat like a normal dog. She stood on the floor squished behind the front seat, with this miserable look on her face, like, See what you guys make me do?
"Oh, stop being such a drama queen," Mom said to her.
I got buckled in. Suddenly Audrey Griffin started running toward the car all stiff and out of rhythm. You could just tell she hadn't run in about ten years.
"Oh, boy," Mom said. "What is it now?"
Audrey Griffin's eyes were wild, and she had a big smile as usual, and she was shaking a piece of paper at us. Her gray hair was coming out of its ponytail, and she was wearing clogs, and under her down vest you could see the pleats on her jeans bulging out. It was hard not to watch.
Señora Flores, who was on traffic duty, gave us the signal to keep it moving because there was a huge line of cars and the Sound Seafood guy was videotaping the traffic jam. Audrey motioned for us to pull over.
Mom was wearing dark glasses like she always does, even when it rains. "For all that gnat knows," Mom muttered, "I don't see her."
- "This divinely funny, many-faceted novel...leaves convention behind. Instead, it plays to Ms. Semple's strengths as someone who can practice ventriloquism in many voices, skip over the mundane and utterly refute the notion that mixed-media fiction is bloggy, slack or lazy.... The tightly constructed WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is written in many formats-e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple's storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- You don't have to know Seattle to get Maria Semple's broadly satirical novel.... Underlying the nontraditional narrative are insights into the cost of thwarted creativity and the power of mother-daughter bonds, although a reader may be having too much fun to notice."—O, The Oprah Magazine
- "Delightfully droll.... Semple...cuts a wry slice of a life-one that's populated by private school helicopter parents, obsessively eco-conscious neighbors, and green-juice swilling, TED-talking husbands-and one that's sharp enough to make us feel slightly relieved about not having to live anywhere quite so bucolic."—Megan O'Grady, Vogue
"The characters in Where'd You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure."
—Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
- "There's a lot to like in Semple's charming novel, including the vivacious humor and the lesson that when creative forces like Bernadette stop creating, they become 'a menace to society.' Even more appealing is the mutually adoring mother-daughter relationship at its warm heart."—Heller McAlpin, NPR
- "In her second novel...Semple pieces together a modern-day comic caper full of heart and ingenuity....a compelling composite of a woman's life-and the way she's viewed by the many people who share it. As expected from a writer who has written episodes of Arrested Development, the nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying dénouement."—Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)
- "A comedic delight..."—Family Circle
- "Agoraphobia and Antarctica are among the elements in Maria Semple's terrific novel."—Parade
- "Semple's affecting characters, not-necessarily-nice humor and surprising plot twists make this novel an enchanting ride."—Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
- "Warm, dark, sad, funny-and a little bit screwball.... This is an inventive and very funny novel that gets bonus points for transcending form."—Susan Coll, The Washington Post
- "[A] cracklingly smart family dramedy.... [I was] stunned and transported by this extraordinarily powerful and intelligent novel."—Lev Grossman, Time
- "With its big heart set on acceptance, BERNADETTE feels something like coming home."—Paul Constant, The Stranger
- "A shrewd yet compassionate portrait of family dysfunction and the volatility of genius in laugh-out-loud, irresistibly high-spirited prose.... WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTEtakes readers on an original and movingly imaginative adventure."—Catherine Straut, Elle
- "Semple's ear for satirizing this world is sharp and scathingly funny; she could probably turn her novel into a stand-up act."—Stewart Oksenhorn, The Aspen Times
- "Semple, once a writer for Arrested Development, picks apart the mundane interactions of everyday life with a hilarious hand, and you're sure to be as swept up in this witty, inventive mystery as we were."—Emily Temple, Flavorpill
- "WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is fresh and funny and accomplished, but the best thing about it was that I never had any idea what was going to happen next. It was a wild ride..."—Kate Atkinson, author of Case Histories and Started Early, Took My Dog
- "Maria Semple dissects the gory complexities of familial dysfunction with a deft and tender hand. WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a triumph of social observation and black comedy by a skillful chronicler of moneyed malaise."—Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers
- "[An] engrossing and whip-smart modern epistolary novel..."—Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly
- "Semple paints each character with depth and tenderness while keeping the tone upbeat; no easy feat for a novel about a mother who pulls a disappearing act."—Korina Lopez, USA Today
- "[A] romp of a novel.... Semple...nail[s] Seattle's idiosyncrasies in wickedly funny send-ups."—Barbara Lloyd McMichael, The Bellingham Herald
- "Utterly delightful....Semple used to write for the revered cult hit Arrested Development, and she brings plenty of squirming comedy to the novel, which manages to be that rare good read that actually makes you feel good at the end. Her send-up of Seattle is hilarious, with its Victims Against Victimhood support groups, moms offering organic gardeners swiss chard in lieu of payment, and teachers who are so PC that fourth graders are expected to seriously debate the pros and cons of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. But the heart of the book belongs to Bee, who, as an admissions counselor puts it, tests off the charts for grit and poise; and her mother, who, for all her neuroses, did a bang-up job of turning out one terrific kid."—Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor
- "A touching and hilarious portrait of the anxiety producing, high powered Seattle lifestyle of a somewhat eccentric family of three (and their dog Ice Cream).... This is a great read, well written and populated by characters you care about deeply."—Ruth Freeman, The Norwalk Citizen
- "Stands to become a cult favorite.... Like Jane Austen-who set the gold standard for social satire-Semple's most ridiculous characters are convinced that they're the normal ones, and it's wonderful fun to watch as they behave abominably, believing themselves blameless.... Semple has a keen ear for the nuances of different voices, and it's a joy to get to know these people.... Bernadette is...marvelous. Her rants read like the best comedy routines.... It's the rare book that actually deserves the term "laugh-out-loud funny," but I found myself reading passages from almost every page to anyone who would listen, even as I could barely articulate the words through my own laughter."—Malena Watrous, San Francisco Chronicle
- "Intertwined with the funny stuff is the heartfelt story of a personal crisis of a creative talent who's slipped off the rails... Bernadette's journey is fresh, funny, and thought provoking."—Anne Payne, The Florida Times-Union
- "Comic lines and...fast-paced events."—Nan Willard Cappo, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- "I don't even know where to begin with how fantastic it is.... I ate up the Microsoft-obsessed setting and the fabulous, mad-but-not-really Bernadette. Go, get it, thank me later."—Megan Angelo, Glamour.com
- "If wacky, anxiety-prone geniuses are some of your favorite people, then pick up Maria Semple's WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE to add Bernadette Fox and her family to your list of hilarious companions. Bernadette and company don't mind cursing, so if you do, please be warned. But if not, then you've got a stamped passport to Semple's expertly crafted and rollicking, laugh-till-you-cry adventure that will have you tearing through the pages to find out if Bernadette is gone for good."—Dawn Andrus Paine, Daily Herald (Utah)
- "Well-plotted and masterfully satirical.... WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is really, really funny, and not in the usual way that suggests the author is trying to be funny to cover up their deficiencies in plot or styling. As it turns out, Maria Semple is both a good writer and a funny writer, but she prefers to be the latter."—Janet Potter, The Millions
- "Sublime..."—Frank Bruni, on his blog for The New York Times
- "With only her second book, TV writer-turned novelist Maria Semple has won rave reviews with a withering, but ultimately affectionate satire of Seattle's privileged set."—Chris Michaud, Reuters
- "If Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl represented the dark heart of the summer literature, Maria Semple's...BERNADETTE embodies the sunnier, funnier side.... Semple has a flair for satire and screwball jinks, and she has produced a great gift to avid readers: a book that you never want to finish reading."—Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
- "An epistolary novel for the twenty-first century.... Paced like a beach read, BERNADETTEhas a scathing wit and a casual storytelling style that pulls the reader in and forces her to listen."—Capital Times' blog
- "One of the funniest stories you can read this year."—Donna Liquori, The Albany Times Union
- "A powerful mosaic of mental illness, artistic temperament, and family melodrama.... Semple's background in television and comedy... provide[s] the foundation for this subversively funny novel and its all-too-rare blend of humor and heart.... In a time when everything is a version of something else, how extraordinary-and exciting-to read a novel that subverts conventions to create an experience that feels so fresh."—Jeremy Medina, The L Magazine
- "This book is hysterical, kind of wacky, and utterly original."—Entertainment Weekly's "The Bullseye"
- "One of the big burst-of-oxygen books this year.... clever and inventive but also genuine and heartfelt."—Gillian Flynn for The New York Times' "Inside the List"
- "Semple's epistolary novel satirizes Seattle, Microsoft, helicopter parents, the elite, and the overeducated-while revealing truths about family, genius, ambition, and resilience."—Gillian Flynn, GQ
- [A] clever story of family dysfunction."—Dailycandy
- "Marketed as a beach read, give this to your soccer moms who have come to the realization that maybe they aren't 'all that.' With a Tiffany-blue cover, it's wrapped perfectly!"—Michelle Will, The Kitsap Sun
- "A quirky comic masterpiece...about an irresistibly precocious teen and her awesomely agoraphobic mom.... BERNADETTE is an ingenious, enjoyable, continually surprising farce."—David Hiltbrand, The Philadelphia Inquirer
- "In appearance, this may be the perfect beach read to go with your retro bikini. Inside the cover, Semple's novel is funny, suspenseful, multi-faceted, multi-media, and sad, too - spot-on social commentary..."—Jen Doll, The Atlantic Wire
- "Unputdownable!"—Sumana Ghosh-Witherspoon, Parents.com
- "A hilarious, nasty, heartfelt satire about parenting, privilege, genius, resilience and life in Seattle."—Gillian Flynn on Today
- "It's the first epistolary novel I've ever loved, and sharp as hell."—Emma Straub for Salon
- "Few novels will make you laugh aloud the way Semple's satiric take on a disintegrating Seattle family does."—The Charlotte Observer
- "Stunningly astute.... Beyond its ethnographic value as a snapshot of the underlying hypocrisies of the way the top five percent lives now, WYGB delivers at least one knowing chuckle per page in an innovative structure worthy of its own TED Talk."—Christina Spines, Word & Film
- "This funny and heartfelt novel has it all: love, mystery, infidelity, and humor. The complications of human life are on full display and examined with absurdity."—Laura Anderson, BLOGCRITICS.ORG
- "Tart [and] searingly funny."—Jessica Grose, Fast Company
- "Clever, witty and laugh-out-loud funny. And that's a rare and wonderful thing."—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
- "The romp that ensues throughout Semple's sophomore novel is cleverly crafted, and allows the reader to develop strong ties to the author's masterfully drawn...[and] quirky characters."—Shelly Walston, The Wichita Eagle
- "Delicious, funny, irreverent, [and] smart..."—Minnesota Reads
- "Really, really funny.... A novel of refuge if you find yourself, like Bernadette, bogged down by the peskiness of privilege."—Stacey Pavlick, Spectrum Culture
- "Fast-paced and compulsively readable...and beneath its nimble storytelling is a resonant exploration of a mother and daughter's unbreakable bond."—Elliott Holt, The Morning News Tournament of Books
- "Maria Semple brings her A game."—Chicago Now
- "A lovely story of a creative lull."—Jessa Crispin, Architect Magazine
- "Seriously funny and clever."—In Touch Weekly
- "Wildly creative."—Jennifer Haupt, Psychology Today
- "A tremendously entertaining work of social satire combined with a mystery that kept me wondering what would happen next right up to the end."—Boing Boing
- "[A] dazzling satire.... One of 2012's most hilarious books."—The Brooklyn Eagle
- "A truly inventive mother-daughter story full of offbeat characters, clever humor and drama both intrapersonal and interpersonal."—Laura Pearson, Time Out Chicago
- "Smart [and] entertaining."—Ihsan Taylor, New York Times Book Review
- "To say this book is quirky would be something of an understatement. It is also very funny, snarky, smart, occasionally confusing, and cleverly constructed."—Aspen Daily News
- "Funniest book since the invention of the printing press."—Gary Shteyngart for Entertainment Weekly
- On Sale
- Aug 14, 2012
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Little, Brown and Company