I love that kind of quirky humor that makes you laugh while thumbing its nose at life. "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is just that kind of funny, a book full of sarcasm and wit that makes you think twice about our modern world and our modern problems.
Bernadette is a middle-aged ex-architect in the midst of a major identity crisis. Once heralded as a design genius, she now languishes her days away in a decrepit house in Seattle. Her daughter, Bee, is a brilliant student at the local private school (where the other mothers hate Bernadette and where the curriculum is 110% politically correct) and her husband is quickly reaching higher and higher career heights at Microsoft. Meanwhile, Bernadette can barely leave the house and copes by hiring an Indian virtual assistant to make even her most mundane phone calls. She absolutely does not fit in to the earthy, yuppy, yoga-laden world of Seattle and she is not even inclined to try.
Then her identity crisis comes to a real head - her daughter, Bee, wants to take a family trip. To Antarctica. While Bernadette at first says yes, she quickly realizes that taking this trip means dealing with her demons. After a series of absurd plot twists, misunderstandings and antics, Bernadette vanishes. Bee launches into a deep investigation of Bernadette's inner world by tapping into her emails, letters and other communications, revealing her mother as a loving, complex and misunderstood woman.
While the plot may sound serious and heavy, it is really not. The book is peppered with amusing oddities and incongruities that make the writing a delight and the plot very entertaining. The best part is that author Maria Semple manages to make some very touching points about mothers and daughters, marriage, identity and self, all while making the reader genuinely laugh.
Recommended by Erica Jesonis