Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple | February Book of the Month

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Maria Semple delivers a hilariously fascinating novel about the struggles of parenthood, family, societal pressure and serious disorders in her novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

After having promised her daughter, Bee, anything she wanted after graduating middle school with all A’s, Bernadette Fox is asked to take a family trip to Antarctica. Now, there are many reasons not to want to take a trip to Antarctica: It’s cold, you have to go through the extremely dangerous waters of the Drake Passage and there are people.

“Of the million reasons I don’t want to go to Antarctica, the main one is that it will require me to leave the house” (Bernadette, p. 10).

Bernadette is an agoraphobe, which “is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong,” according to nhs.uk. The family lives in suburban Seattle, where status is key and community activity is required. Between the pressures of the society around her and the threat of the upcoming trip, Bernadette seems to have reached her breaking point and disappears.

The novel goes far beyond the trope of “a mother running away to find herself.” In fact, the novel is about quite the opposite. Bernadette locks herself into the life she’s comfortable with, even if that means pushing everyone else away. This works, at least for a while: her husband, Elgrin Branch, works at Microsoft and isn’t home often; Bee is at school and out with her friends; even most of the school moms just gossip behind her back. She doesn’t have to have any outside interaction… until she runs over one of the moms.

Suddenly, all the cords begin to unravel. Houses are destroyed, Bernadette swears she is being followed, the FBI shows up, Bernadette disappears without a trace… This novel contains so many twists and turns and is impossible to fully explain without ruining it. Just know that it will go far beyond your expectations.

This is a book you won’t be able to put down, and will leave you wondering: where did you go, Bernadette?

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also being adapted into a film and will release on August 9, 2019.

Jill Ciampa is a professional writing major studying publishing, technical, and public policy writing. She enjoys spending time reading and watercoloring. She can usually be found traveling, watching Netflix, or trying to get someone to understand her French. Follow her @jiciam on Instagram.


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