Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple

It's no wonder Amy Sherman-Palladino gave this book a nod when "Bunheads" central character pulls it out while waiting in line at an audition. Semple and Sherman-Palladino must be long-lost twins, two peas in a pod, cut from the same cloth. They have the same fast-paced, painfully witty, whirlwind women in their work (Lorelai Gilmore? Michelle Simms? Meet Bernadette Fox.) It's exhausting! But, at the same token (and part of me hates to admit this), it's addictive. I have a love/hate relationship with these women (Sherman-Palladino, Semple, and their characters). I love "The Gilmore Girls" (Incidentally, Bee is basically another Rori Gilmore, and one of the only truly likable characters - for the most part - in the book). I kind of hate myself for liking "Bunheads." And I like hating Where'd You Go Bernadette. Its characters are annoying and petty and rich and selfish and make me angry, and yet I kept reading.

I can't remember the last time I read a book in two days, and I second Jonathan Franzen's blurb on the cover: "I tore through this book with heedless pleasure." Having said that, I suppose it's unfair for me to say I hate this book. But I'm not sure I liked it. I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it the way I enjoy TV shows I like; I just absorbed it. It's fun. This is a beach read in the best sense: fast-paced, easy to digest, and just fun. (When's the last time I can say I read a fun book?)

Initially I disliked the pseudo- epistolary form (emails, notes, transcripts), but I grew to enjoy it. It keeps the plot moving and adds to the sense of mystery of the book; they're puzzle pieces to understanding Bernadette. And it's Bee's love for her mother and her drive to uncover who Bernadette is, what happened to her, and where she went that holds the novel together and keeps the reader reading. Without her, and her compassionate and passionate detective work, this novel wouldn't work. The novel itself is quirky, full of gossipy, unlikable "gnats," and some ridiculous situations (Also, now I really want to go to Antarctica).

All in all, I say read this book (not like you need my endorsement since by now I think nearly everyone's read it or been told to read it). It's not going to change your life. You won't have any serious epiphanies or re-examine your choices. You may, like me, hate yourself for liking this book, or like hating this book. But, either way, you'll have a lot of fun with it.

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