I devoured “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple without remorse through the holidays. Gone was the craving for egg nog. Lost was the hope of a decent night’s sleep. All that mattered was reading this book.
Bernadette Fox went missing just two days before Christmas. But the drama started long before in the sleepy (or perhaps uninhabitable, if you take Bernadette’s word for it) town of Seattle. Living in a dilapidated reform school with her husband Elgin and daughter Bee, Bernadette seeks solace from the neighborhood mothers she scathingly refers to as “gnats” and the general scum of Seattle. Something horrible in her past has driven her out of LA and into the hands of the granola chewing, Microsoft loving crowd. Semple leaves you craving details for far too many pages.
The story telling is unlike any I’ve seen before. We get to know Bernadette, Bee, and Elgin only through a series of emails, faxes, memos, and police reports for most of the novel. The most surprising confidant is Bernadette’s online virtual assistant, an Indian woman named Manjula whom Bernadette pays $0.75/hour.
The story jumps perspective, showing each side of the story – including everything from Bee’s teenage view to Bernadette’s rants to the neighborhood gnats’ gossip. Each page is layered with meaning, so delectably rich I hoped it would never end.
Semple was a writer for the cult classic TV show “Arrested Development.” If you love the show as much as I do you’ll be hooked instantly with Semple’s method of storytelling.
Pair “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” with an equally rich red: Cline Cellars’ 2010 Ancient Vines Mourvedre. Developed with vines 100 years old, this sweet and heavy wine is mixed with notes of plum and dark chocolate, offsetting the complicated tale of Bernadette Fox. The Mourvedre will ground you as Semple’s tale keeps you guessing.
Cheers to the first review of 2013,