Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Review

This book caught my eye at some point over the summer but since I knew it was an epistolary, I wasn't super excited about reading it. I was turned off of epistolary novels as a kid when I read Dear Mr. Henshaw. Not a favorite. Then again, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of my all time favorite books and that's also epistolary. I guess I just approach these sort of books with reservation.

I've read a few other books before this one but clearly I'm a bit behind on reviewing. There will be more coming soon, I promise. I had to jump into this because I loved it so much. I downloaded a sample and very quickly bought the book... and then finished it within two days.

The novel follows the nutty life of Bernadette Fox, as seen through emails, letters and other documents, as well as through her daughter Bee's life. Bee is 15 and adores her mother. They live in a huge, ramshackle house in Seattle where her father works at Microsoft. Bernadette seems to love their eccentric lifestyle but is scornful of the bigger community. She calls the other mothers at Bee's school gnats and generally avoids them at all costs. It quickly becomes clear that she is deeply agoraphobic, but Bee just worships her, even if she knows little about her.

At some point in the past, Bernadette was a famous up and coming architect. Why she stopped her work and moved to Seattle to live in a decaying house is part of the mystery that unfolds throughout the book. We read emails that she sends and received from Munjala, her virtual Indian assistant, who essentially does everything for her. We read prose sections from Bee's perspective. We see letters between Bernadette's husband and a doctor, between an architectural professor and his student, and the funniest, emails between two mothers at Bee's school, women who Bernadette loathes.

Bernadette is definitely a fascinating character. By the end, it is clear why she is the way that she is and there is certainly hope that things will improve for their family. There's a trip to Antarctica, a mudslide and a fascinating house called the Twenty Mile House. I'm not saying any more because I don't want to give anything else away. Long story short, I adored this book and highly recommend it. Was it a little absurdest at times? Sure, but it was also great fun.

Here's some reviews if you don't want to take my word for it:

Washington Post
Denver Post

Buy it at amazon or Barnes & Noble 

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