where's you go bernadette
Book Reviews

Where’d You Go Bernadette

Where'd You Go Bernadette

Book : Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Author - Maria Semple

Genre General-Fiction

My rating : 4/5

Plot summary:

I picked up Where'd You Go Bernadette only because it came up repeatedly on the to be read books of many book lists.

Disclaimer: The below Summary is taken from Wikipedia


After her mother's disappearance, 15-year-old Bee Branch gathers correspondence relating to her mother in order to ascertain what has happened to her. Bee traces the incident back to her perfect report card. Earlier, Bee's parents had told her she could have anything she wanted if she got a perfect report card for all her years in this school. Because of this previous promise, Bee convinces her parents, stay at home mother Bernadette, and father Elgin, a genius who works at Microsoft, to take her to Antarctica. Though Bernadette is mostly housebound she delegates the task of making their arrangements to a personal assistant in India, Manjula.

Because she is housebound, Bernadette has an ongoing feud with some of the mothers at Bee's private school with the main instigator being her neighbor Audrey Griffin. Audrey accuses Bernadette of running over her foot with her car (which Bernadette does not dispute, though it is untrue).

Bee also learns that her mother was once a famous architect, winner of a MacArthur "Genius" Grant because of her creation of the 20 Mile house, so called because it was made from material sourced from within 20 miles of the home. After she won the grant, Bernadette sold the house, only to belatedly realize it had been sold to a hostile neighbor who demolished the home as soon as he obtained it. After the defeat Bernadette moved to Seattle where she had four miscarriages before Bee.

A friend of Audrey's, Soo-Lin Lee-Segal, an admin at Microsoft, goes to work for Elgin Branch. She reveals to him Bernadette's "attacks" on Audrey, causing him to question whether to admit Bernadette to a psychiatric institution. As Soo-Lin and Elgin begin an emotional affair, the FBI also contact Elgin to reveal "Manjula" is actually a Russian money scamming ring who plan to defraud Elgin and Bernadette. Elgin arranges for an intervention with Bernadette at the dentist to reveal these facts to her, but because of a mistake the (unsuccessful) intervention happens at their home with the FBI and police involved. In the middle of the intervention Bernadette goes to the washroom and disappears.

Bee has a place at Choate, and in the aftermath of Bernadette's disappearance she is sent to the school early. Soo-Lin reveals to Audrey that she is pregnant with Elgin's child and he has bought them a family home. Elgin and Soo-Lin learn that Bernadette did take the trip to Antarctica herself and go there to confront her only to have her disappear again. During this time Soo-Lin also reveals to Audrey that her life is miserable and that the pregnancy is a result of a drunken one night stand between her and Elgin, who completely regrets the incident.

At Choate, Bee receives a package that contains the bulk of the correspondence used in the novel up to that point. It is revealed that after discovering that the accusations she levelled against Bernadette were going to result in her being hospitalized, Audrey helped her escape from her house, showed her all the correspondence between Soo-Lin and her husband, stayed silent when Bernadette decided to go to Antarctica in the hopes that she would be able to speak privately to Elgin and Bee there, and sent the package containing all the correspondence to Bee, in the hopes that Bee would understand what happened with Bernadette.

Bee is kicked out of Choate, in part because of the manuscript she is putting together. She guilts her father into going on the trip to Antarctica with her in the name of closure though she secretly believes her mother is hiding there. After nearly giving up hope Bee learns of Palmer Station, an American base where scientists work and research. Stealing a boat with her father, Bee goes to the station where she in fact finds Bernadette who is surprised to find that her family thought she was dead as she sent Bee a letter.

Bee finds the missing letter when she returns to her old school. The letter reveals that Bernadette went to Antarctica in the hopes of reconciling with her husband and daughter and decided to stay for the cruise. While there she met a scientist who told her about Palmer Station and an architectural project for the South Pole in which every single material would have to be shipped from the U.S. which meant that it was of the utmost importance for everything to be designed to complete perfection. Bernadette snuck on board Palmer Station hoping to work on the project and sent the letter to Bee asking for her blessing and telling her she would return home if she did not get it within a set period of time.


Wikipedia describes it as a comedy novel, i did not find much comedy in the storyline though.

The book is about a mother disappearing two days before Christmas and a daughter’s search where she tumbles onto a email haze and ends up finding her mother in a least expected place.

Someone disappearing and comedy, well its a mismatch.

I liked how the book is in emails and letters and you still can read through it.

Sometimes to understand why someone did what they did, we always have to listen to both sides of the story, in this case many sides of the same story for the situation to make sense.

The Novel describes different versions of the incidents from a mother’s a daughter’s a husband’s and a viewer’s point of view, which i like, leaves some curiosity ,as each point of view unravels, it fills the gap.

I also APPRECIATE way how the character of Bernadette who is borderline genius evolves, how the fear of being among people which is very much real is depicted.

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