Bernadette Fox has anxiety issues and they are severe ones. The ones that she cannot handle and trudges from one moment to the other with them, like a load on her back. She doesn’t want to deal with people. She is weird. She is her daughter Bee’s idol and a friend. She is a caring wife as well. She was a rising star in the field of architecture till something snapped. And one fine day, Bernadette has disappeared without as much as a note. It is now up to Bee to find her mother, no matter what it takes.
That is the plot of, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. One would expect such a book to be serious and definitely emotional more than anything else, however this book is also obviously funny in most parts and that is what sets it apart. The book is written in the form of journal entries, emails and notes. That is one interesting way of writing the book.
There are a lot of flashback scenes in the book and rightly so, given the storyline. The pieces need to be fit for Bee and that is what the writing does. Bee is sometimes level-headed and sometimes emotionally wrought and it is the balance of the character that propels you to read the book, besides of course the storyline.
Stories of disappearance and the search thereof, are plenty. A lot of writers have written about this. Then what makes this book so different? You do not know what is going to happen next. Bee’s voice is unique and more introspective more than anything else.
The book is a psychological profile, a half-baked memoir, and a mystery novel, all rolled into one. I was waiting right till the last page to find out what happened to Bernadette and Bee. That is the stroke of a great writer. To unravel each sub-plot one at a time. Maria Semple’s writing is crisp, touching, and shines in so many places. The best part for me was that some part of the book takes place in Antarctica as well. Definitely one of the best reads this year.