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patfrench

Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple This is a tough one. While I was reading it, I was caught up in the story, no question. I didn't want to put it down, just so I could see what happened next. But after I was finished, I started thinking it over, and I realized that there really weren't any sympathetic characters I could root for, except possibly for Bee, the tween daughter.

Anyway, this is the story of a privileged family in Seattle consisting of "homemaker" Bernadette Fox; her Microsoft-guru husband, Elgie Branch, and brilliant eigth-grader Bee. They live in a former home for wayward Catholic girls that is crumbling around them, just like Bernadette's life. Bernadette has grudge-feuds with the other moms in Bee's school, drivers, landscapers, and lots of other people.

As the novel opens, we find out (from a note from Bee) that Bernadette has disappeared, 2 days before Christmas. Through letters, emails, report cards, hospital bills, blog posts, and other documents, the story is told of how this came about and what happened next. I'm a sucker for the epistolary format, so I was hooked.

My main problems with the book are:
1. Bernadette's behavior, which is due to mental illness, is played for laughs. She's "quirky," don't you know? Wrong.
2. A main character's religious conversion comes out of nowhere. It felt disrespectful. And this is coming from someone who LOVED Christopher Moore's Lamb, so it's not like I have a problem with poking fun at religion.
3. The husband is passive and disengaged in his relationships for most of the book. Bernadette has to physically disappear before he takes any action.

So although the writing is good, and the storytelling is excellent, I can't get behind this one. I can see how others would, though.