Cleverly disguised as a comic novel about an artistic stay at home mom who is too hip for the hippie-hipster lifestyle of Seattle, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is a good selection for book groups looking for a seriously funny book. Book Group Buzz featured the book in this post last year.
At a recent discussion of The Kansas City Star’s FYI Book Group, readers all gushed about this second novel from Semple. They mentioned the lively pacing due to the epistolary format, the outrageous situations Bernadette encountered or created with her neighbors, and the quirky yet realistic characters that include the city of Seattle and its denizens.
The surface elements were fun for readers to discuss, but when they looked closer, they found other, more serious issues in the novel. Readers discussed the nature of genius and creativity and how it can take a toll on the people who possess it and their loved ones who try to live with it. Title character Bernadette is a MacArthur Award winning architect who abandons Los Angeles for Seattle after an artistic triumph becomes a devastating creative failure in her eyes.
Readers also talked about the definition of “normal family” and what it means to be a mother. Bernadette and Bee, her teenage daughter, share a close relationship since Elgin, Bee’s father, is always at work as one of MicroSoft’s software rock stars. Bernadette has some unorthodox notions of parenting but Bee is turning out just fine.
The most intense conversation was reserved for discussion of Bernadette and how one can get lost, metaphorically and physically.
A good choice for hot weather or around the holidays.