Where'd You Go, Bernadette: funny/dark novel about the disintegration of a Microsoft family
Maria Semple wrote a tremendously entertaining work of social satire combined with a mystery that kept me wondering what would happen next right up to the end.
My wife Carla has been reading some excellent books in her book salon. One of them was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, which I reviewed here. More recently, she handed me her copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple, and told me I was going to love it, and she was right! It's a tremendously entertaining work of social satire combined with a mystery that kept me wondering what would happen next right up to the end.
Bernadette Fox lives with her husband, Elgie, in Seattle. Twenty years ago, Elgie and Bernadette lived in Los Angeles. Elgie had been an animator and Bernadette had been an up-and-coming architect. But then two things happened: Elgie sold his company to Microsoft, and Bernadette suffered a terrible event. Now they live in a decrepit old house (that used to be a home for wayward girls) on a hill in Seattle with their daughter Bee, who attends Galer Street, an expensive private school filled with the kids of Microsoft's top managers.
Bernadette doesn't like the other Galer Street parents. In fact, she doesn't like anyone besides Bee and Manjula, her 75-cents-an-hour virtual assistant from India who performs all manner of tasks for the agoraphobic and antisocial Bernadette. In turn, the other parents despise Bernadette for her aloofness and refusal to volunteer at Bee's school. And Elgie offers little support: he's too busy heading a project that he thinks will change the world, and the fact that many other people think so (he gave the 4th most watched TED Talk in history about his creation, called Samantha 2), allows him to justify his 80-hour workweeks.
Author Maria Semple tells the story through email messages between school parents, emails from Bernadette to her assistant Manjula, psychiatric evaluations, and other Internet communications, interspersed with notes from Bee. There's a reason the story is presented this way, which readers discover near the end of the book. We also learn the terrible secret of what happened to Bernadette in Los Angeles, and why she suddenly disappeared the day before she was supposed to go on a vacation with Elgie and Bee to Antarctica.
One of my favorite things about Where'd You Go, Bernadette, besides the entertaining characters and takedown of private-school/TED/Microsoft culture, was the sheer unpredictability of the story. I had no idea what I was in store from one scene to the next. But everything tied together, and as a stickler for satisfying endings, Where'd You Go, Bernadette nailed it.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three — collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success — turned the series’ reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.
The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.
I lost about 40 pounds on a keto diet, that being the near-total abnegation of carbs. It worked, for me, but the strict mandate means my foodlife is mostly salads, nuts and meat. Tough going! The popularity of the diet, and others similar to it (paleo, Atkins, etc), has created a market for carbless snacks […]
Learning is a 24/7/365 proposition, and it never ends. And if you’re truly serious about leveling up your skill sets and career prospects, get a subscription to Stone River Academy’s massive course collection. This offer normally is worth over $1,400, but is now available for just $89 in the Boing Boing Store.A respected name in information technology […]
Home audio has taken some big leaps forward in recent years–not just in terms of sound quality, but also in the style department. The FRESHeBAR Leather Soundbar, now 56% off in the Boing Boing Store, is proof.The FRESHeBAR comes packing almost all the options you’d ever need for a home sound system, including Bluetooth streaming capabilities.The unit’s 90 […]
Much of what goes into creating an amazing photo happens in the digital darkroom. Here’s your chance to master all things photo editing: the Ultimate Adobe Photo Editing Bundle, now available in the Boing Boing Store for just $29.99.Across 8 courses and over 41 hours of intensive instruction, you’ll learn the fundamentals of Adobe’s suite of photo […]