Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple,

Book cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Book description

A misanthropic matriarch leaves her eccentric family in crisis when she mysteriously disappears in this "whip-smart and divinely funny" novel that inspired the movie starring Cate Blanchett (New York Times).

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's…

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Why read it?

12 authors picked Where'd You Go, Bernadette as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

How can you not love a novel about an agoraphobic mother who somehow promises her 15-year-old daughter that she’ll take her to Antarctica?

The mom, Bernadette, knows she can’t handle that kind of trip, but in her desperate attempts to make it work, things get out of hand, and Bernadette disappears. It’s up to 15-year-old Bee to play detective and find her. Set in Seattle, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is a delightful mix of comedy and satire with a wonderful message about the need to face up to the disappointments in one’s past.

From Nancy's list on runaway moms.

At the heart of this book is an important message: creativity cannot and should not be suppressed.

I’m a creative person, and if I’m not writing, I’m making things with my hands—paper crafts, water coloring, miniatures, cross stitchyou name it.

In this book, Bernadette gives up her joy of creativity because of relentless criticism, lack of appreciation for her work, and self-imposed responsibilitiesuntil she discovers it’s the work that matters.

There is so much to love about this interesting, thought-provoking book. Bernadette is an awesome character—a brilliant architect whose early success has stopped her cold.


From Anastasia's list on the absurdities of the workplace.

There’s something cathartic about reading a midlife meltdown story, and this one is over-the-top hilarious. Once a successful architect, the eccentric, misanthropic Bernadette Fox is fed up with what her life has become. When she disappears without a trace, her precocious teenage daughter sets out to track her down. The story is told almost entirely through emails, letters, memos, and other bits of correspondence, making it a fast, fun read. 

Witty, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Maria Semple’s book about a modern family living in Seattle confronting modern meaninglessness is inventive and playful in its use of forms. Each chapter feels like a new opportunity for Semple to explore a different way of capturing this family of three that has begun to drift apart. Part mystery, part satire, the novel perfectly captures the absurdity of trying to understand the strange people we call family.

From Joe's list on complicated families.

When Bernadette Fox triggers a mudslide into a fancy party because of her snooty neighbor’s imperious demands, I was hooked. This wonderfully weird story of the offbeat, agoraphobic, but not-actually-crazy Bernadette is a darkly funny exploration of how easy it is for an eccentric woman to be tarred as a madwoman and rushed offstage, lest she causes more ruckus.

From Kristina's list on unapologetic women.

What I found fascinating about this book is that the escape this privileged woman (Bernadette) is trying to make is from her own life. Twice! She successfully escapes from her previous life as an architect to become a stay-at-home mom but discovers over time that what she escaped from was what she truly needed in her life. She lost her creative drive. And so, she tries to escape her new life as well. The story then becomes a search for Bernadette by her daughter and husband. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? makes it abundantly clear that the grass isn’t always greener,…

From Bryan's list on with impossible escapes.

Maria Semple takes a serious topic—the disappearance of a mother—and transforms the novel by expertly weaving humor throughout the story. Bernadette Fox is a housebound, well-regarded architect whose brilliant past is largely unknown to those around her. Just before a  planned trip to Antarctica with her family, she goes missing. The book is narrated by her 15-year-old daughter Bee Branch whose research helps her better understand her previously baffling mother. 

Bernadette is technically from a dysfunctional family but that dysfunction is mostly centered around her. She’s an incredibly intelligent recluse who mysteriously leaves her daughter and husband after a school fundraiser goes south. I could relate to Bernadette’s paranoia and the way fear can rear its ugly head if you’re not careful.

Maria Semple’s comic novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette looks at wife and mom Bernadette, who’s falling apart: she can’t deal with her hometown, Seattle, the other moms in her orbit, her neighbors, or much of anything, really. Overwhelmed, Bernadette breaks down and disappears, which leaves Bernadette’s middle-school-age daughter, Bee, to figure out where Bernadette has gone, and why. By the end of this novel, Bernadette, who’s taken herself on a very unlikely trip, has gotten herself together in a whole new way. Where’d You Go, Bernadette also makes great use of emails, texts, and other fictional documents, making it a…

From Sarah's list on midlife coming-of-age.

In this wildly imaginative and delightfully funny novel that includes a family trip to Antarctica, the main character, Bernadette Fox, is an unconventional mother to say the least. Her marriage is in trouble and she abandons her daughter. And yet, this family loves one another so deeply, they find ways to face their problems that bring them closer together.

From Kate's list on dysfunctional families.

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