If you’ve been reading my posts for a while now, you know that I tend to listen to audiobooks while driving to different places. You may also know that I don’t drive a lot, or very far, so sometimes that means it can take me weeks to finish one audiobook!
That is not the case with Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. I actually found myself making excuses to drive so that I could get to the next bit of this audiobook.
Bernadette Fox is many things in her suburban Seattle community. To her husband Elgin, she’s a smart and challenging partner. To the”Gaylor Street gnats” she’s the one parent who doesn’t volunteer for school activities. To the world, she’s a reclusive architect known for pioneering green architecture, and to her daughter Bee, she’s her best friend.
Then Bernadette goes missing after a series of events triggered by Bee’s perfect report card and her request that the family go on a cruise to Antartica. The problem is that Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle has resulting agoraphobia, and her aversion to other people means that Bernadette has a virtual assistant from India that runs most of her errand for her.
To find her mother, Bee compiles a series of emails, secret correspondence, and official documents that result in a very readable narrative.
I honestly don’t think a traffic jam has ever been more enjoyable. I was laughing at several points during this book. The book is narrated by one actress, but Kathleen Wilhoite does a great job voicing all of the main characters.
And if the voice sounds familiar it’s because you may recognize her from one of her many rules, including Luke’s sister on Gilmore Girls!
She has Bee’s precocious voice down, and she also has Bernadette’s dejected attitude that really drives home her state of mind. I even liked her changes in voice for Audrey Griffin and Soo-Lin. Yes, this is a more dramatic reading of the book, and the voices all carry the animation that you’d expect them too, but it is so enthralling that I can’t help but love it.
The cast of characters in this book is remarkable, and I think that Maria Semple did a great job at creating this suburbanite environment that is toxic and still funny. One of the first moments that I remember really laughing hysterically at the book is when Bernadette is talking about shopping at Ikea, and the price of Seattle real estate compared to Los Angeles real estate with the simple phrase: “It was Ikea cheap!”
The book isn’t entirely funny, there are some serious points as well, but overall I like the balance that’s achieved throughout the book. I even appreciated the reveal of the “very terrible” thing that happened to Bernadette that no they don’t need to talk about.
Even though we get different sides throughout the book, the vehicle driving the story is Bee, and I loved Bee as a character. With Wilhoite’s narration Bee comes to life. She’s infused with passion and curiosity, and she’s not afraid to off her take on the events she’s cataloging.
Aside from the characters, I love the how Bee’s house is also a character. It would be since Bernadette is an architect, but I love how the building had a story and it was as odd as the family itself.
Really, there’s so much I want to say but I am worried about giving the entire plot away, and it’s really that good. If you’re into audiobooks I would definitely recommend this one for sure.
FINAL RATING: 5 Stars