Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox unabashedly, unashamedly, hates Seattle.  The drivers!  The Craftsman sameness of the architecture!  The disturbing proximity to Canada!  The prevalence of five-way intersections!  The sheer quantity of runaways and vagrants!  Microsoft!  And the weather - but most especially, everyone's inane conversations about the weather!  After The Huge Hideous Thing that happened in L.A., bulldozing her extraordinarily promising career in green architecture, Bernadette fled to Seattle with her husband, Elgin, a Microsoft guru.  Now essentially a recluse, getting out pretty much only to drop off and pick up daughter Bee at the Galer Street School, Bernadette has recently solved her problem with people in general and Seattle in particular by hiring a virtual assistant, Manjula, from India to take care of the daily incidentals.  Unfortunately, even Manjula can't solve the problem with neighbor and fellow Galer Street School parent Audrey Griffin - or, more specifically, Audrey's problem with Bernadette's overgrown blackberry bushes and refusal to participate in committee work at Bee's school.  So when Bee requests a trip to Antarctica over Christmas as a reward for perfect grades, it's all too much.  In the midst of procuring parkas, fishing vests, and seasickness medication so strong it's considered an antipsychotic, Bernadette vanishes.

Sharp, witty, absurd, and laugh-out-loud funny, Where'd You Go, Bernadette is told through a collection of emails, faxes, letters, school correspondance and official documents and peppered with Bee's insights into her mother's seemingly erratic behavior.  A writer for the fringe favorite TV show Arrested Development, author Maria Semple has family dysfunction down to a hilarious, and frighteningly astute, art in this new novel that'll have you snorting with laughter over your Starbucks double latte on your morning commute!