Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Where’d you Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

Little, Brown and Company, 326 pages

ISBN 9780316204279

When Bernadette Fox graduated from architecture school, she established herself quite firmly as a genius of found materials. An abandoned bifocals factory, under Bernadette’s vision, became a beautiful, postmodern house filled with glimmering furniture constructed from the glasses that were left behind. For her next project, Fox committed to build a house out of glass and steel, composed entirely from materials found within a twenty-mile radius. Fox made the glass from local sand, sourced the steel from a recycling yard, and created a work of such beauty that she was awarded a prestigious grant. Then tragedy struck, Fox stopped creating, and she and her husband retreated to Seattle.

Fast forward fifteen years, and Fox is a mess. She lives with her husband and daughter in a dilapidated, abandoned girls’ school.  She trusts no one and rarely leaves home.  A virtual assistant from India takes care of all necessary calls and practicalities, her husband spends nearly all his waking hours at the Microsoft empire, and the mothers at her daughter’s school consider her beneath contempt.  When her daughter Bee has her heart set on a family trip to Antarctica, it’s too much for the reclusive Fox to handle, precipitating a series of crises that help Fox find her way back to sanity.

A thought-provoking and darkly funny take on identity, achievement, and family life, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? will appeal to readers who enjoyed Meg Wolitzer’s The Ten Year Nap and the works of Elinor Lipman.


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8 Responses to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

  1. Touch2Touch says:

    I really loved this book, and heartily second your excellent review.
    An intelligent book, something not so easy to find.

    • Naomi says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, too, and nice to know you shared my take on it. There are a lot of books about women who set aside their professional talents for a time and then find their way back, but this one understands how integral family is to the new equation. And I loved Bee! I have a feisty, outspoken daughter myself (she’s only 3), and like to see that personality type represented in literature.

  2. This book was fun to read and having lived in Seattle made it even more exciting.
    Your take is great! Yes, we too have a feisty daughter and our mantra is…this will serve her later in life in her adult years, don’t squash it :0)

  3. Dear Naomi,
    This sounds like a great read. The setting would add even more interest to me, as I am from Seattle. I had to smile when I read your last comment–extra coffee and naps sounds like a brilliant solution to almost any problem!

    • Naomi says:

      I devoured this book in an afternoon and thought about it all weekend. It’s a great read – a lot of fun and thought-provoking, too. Hope you enjoy it!

      And yes, where would we be without coffee? It’s my survival drink, and tea is my relaxation drink.

  4. Not just a great cover, but sounds like an excellent contemporary novel, this one I am definitely going to read before the shortlist is announced. Great review Naomi.

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