Before I started this website, I had posted reviews of books on social media. Since I have been reviewing books for a year now, I wanted to show you these posts in a new series called “Book Reviews From the Vault!” starting with the excellent Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.
I run a book club at my workplace, and we discussed Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple awhile back. It is about a daughter who tries to piece together what happened during her mom’s – the title character – disappearance as the family plans for a Christmas trip to Antarctica. I had initially chosen this book because I had figured that with a title like that, it would be more light-hearted and quirkier than the previously examined books, which tended to have intense themes. It also helped that its movie version is slated for a release date in August 2019 with Cate Blanchett as the titular person. It certainly fulfilled my expectations of light and fun.
The best parts of the novel were the characters and the one-of-a-kind structure. The characters felt real as they all had their winning traits as well as their flaws. These can be seen especially in both the title character and her Christian-loving nemesis Audrey Griffin. In addition, Semple writes most of the story epistolary-style aka through letters (both print and email). This unique style allows the author to explore various characters’ relationships to one another, beliefs, and their motivations at their most personal. The only complaint I have is that she does not use it throughout the entire novel. She uses for two-thirds of it, and the third act uses a conventional first-point-of-view structure. I wonder why she did that, for it seems odd to switch from a distinctive style to an ordinary one. Nonetheless, I have never seen a book written in the epistolary form before, but in terms of enhancing the story, it was very effective.
Additionally, I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite. Wilhoite does a good job at bringing the characters even more to life even if the vocal differences were subtle at times. The only problem that I had with her performance was with the character Bee – the protagonist. Bee is supposed to be 14 years old, yet Wilhoite makes her sound like as if she was 10. This was not too much of a problem when Bee is naïve of what was going on with her mom, but once she finds out, it got annoying. The audiobook is still worth listening despite the vocal realization of Bee.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in reading something that is light, fun, and quirky. It keeps the story interesting through its well-rounded characters and epistolary structure.