Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #28: Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book is popular among Cannonballers, and I get why. It’s got a different structure, a bit of whimsy and focuses much of its hatred on my grungy / crunchy little hometown of Seattle. In fact, the only thing that made me interested in reading the book was the tie to Seattle. However, I think people who have either never visited the Pacific Northwest or have no animosity towards it will still enjoy the book.

The book is told through some absurd narrative devices – the perspective of a middle school child, emails between neighbors and desperate private school marketers, investigators, magazine articles – but remains fairly coherent throughout. The main narrator is Bernadette’s daughter, although we do get to view things from Bernadette’s perspective as she communicates with her personal assistant (who is based in India – perhaps she got the idea from A.J. Jacobs’s book?). Bernadette going missing, while ostensible the focus of the book, only happens about 2/3 of the way through, which allows us to build up the characters and learn a bit more about them.

Without giving too much away, there is a whole lot of absurdity / unavailability throughout the book. From a super-last-minute trip to Antarctica to a bit of a deus ex machina ending, I definitely had to suspend disbelief numerous times. However, the details about Seattle were pretty spot on, so at least that wasn’t distracting to me.

I read this book over the course of two red-eye flights to Europe for my honeymoon. I was tired and not really interested in anything that taxed my brain too intensely. This book definitely fit the bill. Call it a beach read, or a plane read, or whatever. But I think it’s worth adding to your ‘when I need to turn off my brain but still feel like I’m using it’ list.

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