Written by: Maria Semple
Publication Information: 2012, Little, Brown, and Company
One Line: 15-year-old Bee tries to piece together the disappearance of her quirky mother Bernadette by looking at old e-mails, invoices, and letters, which reveal secrets about her mom and the community.
Brief Summary: A partially epistolary novel, 15-year-old Bee tries to piece together the reasons for her mother’s disappearance two days before Christmas by looking at old e-mails, school correspondences, invoice, and anything she can get her hands on that might relate to her family. The family of three was about to go on a celebratory trip to Antarctica for the Christmas vacation, as Bee had another great report card and was going to go off to boarding school the next year. Quirky Bernadette, Bee's mother, has long been somewhat unstable and hated Seattle. As an architect who never builds, she largely stays in their dilapidated fix-up house that they never fixed up. She’s agoraphobic, and terrified of going away. Bee discovers many odd things: that Bernadette was corresponding with an Indian
Thoughts: One of the biggest books of 2012 and a 2013 ALA Alex Award winner, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a hilarious and charming epistolary novel about a teen searching for her odd but loving mother. The format works: Bee’s narration is interspersed with correspondences of all types about her mother (later in the novel, we find out how Bee obtained everything) and Bee is an engaging and entertaining teenager, also quite quirky. Some of the book is obviously satire: the school moms and the way they treat Bernadette is larger-than-life, and the e-mails from school officials about the disaster with the blackberry bushes are absolutely hilarious. In fact, all of the e-mails from the school – about the need to attract “Mercedes parents” to get more money for the school – are spot-on. The relationship between Bee’s father and one of his assistants (also a parent at the school) is another high-point, as it is so clear through their communication that they are viewing the relationship in completely different ways. Semple does a wonderful job of crafting all of these characters and setting a whimsical mood, but there is a great deal of heart in the story as well. We want Bee to find her mother, and as the story clips along at a great pace, weaving past and present in a seamless way, we keep reading in an effort to find out: where DID you go, Bernadette?
Author Information: From www.mariasemple.com: “Maria Semple spent her first few years traveling around Europe with her parents. While living in Spain, her father Lorenzo wrote the pilot for the TV series Batman. The family packed up and moved to Los Angeles. After Lorenzo became established as a screenwriter, the family moved to Aspen, Colorado. For high school, Maria was sent away to Choate Rosemary Hall and loved every minute of it.
College was at Barnard, where Maria had big plans of becoming a novelist or a teacher. Those dreams got derailed when she sold a movie script to Twentieth Century Fox just after graduation. The movie didn’t get made, but she moved to LA and made a living writing more screenplays that didn’t get made. Maria got into TV when her friend Darren Star – whom she’d met on the ski slopes in Aspen years earlier – gave her a job on Beverly Hills, 90210. Thus began a fifteen-year career in television, writing for good shows like Ellen, Mad About You and Arrested Development. And bad shows you’ll have to look elsewhere to find.
Maria had a baby, quit television and finally gave novel-writing a try. This One Is Mine was published by Little, Brown in December 2008. Maria, her boyfriend and daughter moved to Seattle where her new novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, begins. Maria loves living in Seattle – thank you for asking – where she teaches writing, studies poetry and tries, with mixed results, to stay off the internet.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette was published by Little, Brown & Co. in August, 2012.”