Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria SempleWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
on August 14, 2012
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes
Pages: 330
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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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 a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It 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, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.




This book! It’s like Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? meets Desperate Housewives.

I listened to it on audio, though, and I was not a fan of the narrator. Character inflections sound unnatural, and with ethnic characters, sometimes downright uncomfortable. When words were emphasized (which was a lot), they were overdone or held out too long…it just felt awkward. Bee is 15 years old, but the voice and inflection used makes her sound more like she’s 10. I thought maybe I needed to get used to the narrator’s style, but by the end, I wasn’t won over. (Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity loved this narrator, though! Check out her review for a different perspective.)

There’s a lot of good stuff in this book about having a mother with mental illness. About being a mother with mental illness. About being a mother who gave up a promising career to be a stay-at-home mom to a child with health issues. About being a child dealing with your parents’ messy marriage. The characters are quirky and make you roll your eyes, shout with indignation, laugh out loud, and feel for them. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is both entertaining and touching.

I definitely wish I’d chosen to read it over listening to the audiobook, because Semple is a fantastic writer and the story is a lot of fun.


  • I really liked this one, too. When I started it I thought it was just going to be a lot of fun, so I was surprised by how deep it dug into all the issues you mention in your review. Going to Antarctica seems like it would be kind of a stretch, but I loved that part.

  • Oooh – I loved this one too!! I read it and can totally understand how a bad narrator could muck things up.

  • I LOVED this one when I read it a few years ago. It also sort of reminded me of Gilmore Girls with all the witty banter. Sorry the narrator didn’t work for you… that can *totally* kill the mood of a book.

  • I adored this book beyond reason. I’m glad I didn’t listen to it, lol. 😉

  • I actually listened to this as an audiobook and don’t remember too much about the narrator specifically, but I do remember loving the scene with the sticky keys!

  • I know so many has loved this book, but I still have to make up my mind about whether to read it or not. Glad you enjoyed it though. I still can’t do audiobooks!

  • Jennine G.

    I did like this one, which I read this time last year. I didn’t feel all crazy over it as most people seemed to. Glad I didn’t do audio, would’ve done it in for me!

  • I loved this book SOOOO much, and I was a huge skeptic. I didn’t care for Semple’s first book, and I really thought this would be more of the same, but now this is one of those novels I use as a measuring stick. I’m always on the hunting for something “like Bernadette!”.