Where did you go Bernadette by Maria Semple

I really enjoyed this book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  It is an engaging, clever story told by nasty e-mails, police, psychiatrist and school reports, narration from different characters, including the daughter, mother, father, neighbor and school parents.  Bee is short for Balakrishna, and the precocious teenager who as a middle school student has succeeded in getting straight A’s on her report card. Prior to her grades, Bee had extracted a promise from her parents that if she gets A’s she could have her wish granted-a trip with her parents to Antarctica. The day before the cruise to Antarctica, Bee’s mother disappears.

There is one small problem: Bee’s mother, Bernadette. The mother has complex issues about leaving on this trip including agoraphobia and  the inability to do the basics in daily activities, like tolerating other adults. Bernadette, the mother, requires and employs a virtual assistant from India who she pays 75 cents an hour to do grocery lists, order clothes, conduct her life. But the virtual assistant can’t run interference for Bernadette and the continual conflict she has with people. Bernadette loathes Seattle and all the quirks of Seattle people. In fact, I don’t believe Bernadette has agoraphobia as much as she just dislikes and is intolerant of  most people. She is a multilayered character who is funny, witty, an obsessive savant who won the MacArthur Award for architecture and creativity.  With her acidic tongue, the author/Bernadette makes fun of  the politically correct private school and Seattle at large. There are lots of laughs as we get to know these characters.

A bit contrived but entertaining, from the first page-the wise 14 year old and the flawed parents tell their side of the story as Bee tries to find her missing mother and begins to do the detective work. The author is a veteran screen writer for previous series: Arrested Development and Mad about You. The author  moved to Seattle from southern California and initially had to adjust to the lifestyle of the Northwest. The author likes Seattle now. That’s my 2 cents.

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