Culture and Society

Sunday Book Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Once in a while, I come across a book that I simply cannot put down. Reading today’s featured book was one of those instances. I was visiting the lovely library in Woodbury, TN, when I saw this book prominently displayed at the end of a bookshelf. I grabbed it off its little pedestal and read the synopsis on the back cover. I was intrigued enough to check it out, and boy am I grateful that I did!

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple was an absolute joy to read! To be clear, this is not a new book, but it is new to me. Originally published back in 2012, it caused enough of a sensation to warrant a film adaption of its story starring the luminous Cate Blanchette in the lead role. I have not seen the movie yet, but you can bet your Asian dollar, bottom dollar, and Asian bottom dollar that I will do so very soon.

Because I am a fan of bullet polka dot points, let’s start with the pros:

  • Steady, even pacing. This story never lags in its telling.
  • No one-dimensional characters. This is one element that makes this book truly special.
  • An endearing lead character. The main character Bernadette is a messy, sarcastic, misanthrope who I absolutely adored.
  • Antarctica. I’ll just leave it at that.
  • It’s funny—as in a quirky, catch-you-off-guard kind of funny.

What are the cons? Well, honestly, none that I can think of. This book offers up a robust plot line whose foundation is built on a mother-daughter relationship. What is there not to love about that? The city of Seattle, where the story is set, is given a hilarious treatment that probably many Seattle folks would not appreciate, but it is funny nonetheless.

Is this book a piece of classic literature? Probably not, but that should not be the objective of every book.

I opened this book and started reading. I laughed and road along its light-hearted (but quite beautiful, actually) roller-coaster ride of a story. And I felt better for it.

If there’s any objective a book should accomplish, that is certainly it.

—Roqué

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