Obviously, I had missed the memo on how great of a book this was. Lucky for me, my friends steered me in the right direction. And I am very glad they did.
Where’d You go, Bernadette follows the written, faxed, and e-mail correspondence of Bernadette, her neighbors, her husband Elgin, and her daughter Bee. After Bernadette’s mysterious disappearance, Bee uses these documents to piece together the truth about her mom and where she might have gone. (It sounds like the structure to our #familybookclub pick House of Leaves, but so far they couldn’t be more different.)
Bee is 15 years old, and very smart. So smart that she gets accepted to a boarding school and urged to skip a grade. Children/teenager narrators can be a tricky beast, and although Bee is super smart, she never loses her teenager-y voice. She’s got an attitude, she is embarrassed by her parents, and she is a charming and funny person to spend time with.
“The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”
Bee’s voice seemed very real and truthful to me, just like the issues her family faces–though they are a little absurd. Most families in my circles aren’t living in a home named Straight Gate that used to be a school for girls (or hospital? prison? for some reason it’s unclear to me) that also has blackberry vines growing through the floors. Actually, a lot of Bee’s life was a little absurd. From her family, to her neighbors, to her school. But that made it a really fun and funny read.
“It’s alive, it’s alive!” she screamed. I told her it was just a blackberry vine growing through the floorboards, but she was convinced it was the ghost of one of the Straight Gate girls.”
And it was touching. Bernadette, Bee, and Elgin truly struggle with some hard truths and grapple with some big failures. Only, are they really failures? One thing I love about Where’d You Go, Bernadette is how it redefines its characters and what it means to be successful.
Was Bernadette successful because she won a MacArthur Grant so many years ago? Was Elgin successful when he was a bigwig at Microsoft who had given the world’s fourth-most-watched TEDTalk? Was Bee when she went early to boarding school? Or were they all successful when they faced the truth and fought for what they loved? I’d argue the latter.
“The only thing you can blame Elgie for is he makes life look so damn simple: do what you love.”
Bernadette loves to problem solve and create. And when she doesn’t for so long, she gets a little lost. Figuratively and literally. I know I feel better when I’m creating, and I’m no MacArthur genius. But it gives my day more meaning and I feel fuller when I’m incorporating something creative into my life. It’s like Bernadette says, life only gets more boring–you’ve got to learn how to keep yourself interested.
If you don’t want to read it because it’s funny, or smart, or heartwarming, then maybe you’d want to read it because it makes going to Antarctica sound fun. I mean, that’s not an easy thing to do. (PS: I’m dying to go to Alaska. Not Antarctica–I’m not crazy–but, man, do I want to go to Alaska. I know they aren’t the same but this book only made me want to go more.) We’ve only got a few weeks of summer left, and and whether you need beach reading or glacier reading, Where’d You Go, Bernadette would be a great choice.
(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a little bit of money.)