Tuesday, August 12, 2014

where'd you go, bernadette?

I've seen this book cover a dozen times, mostly in airports and fashion magazines and wrote it off as fluffy chick lit. I think you could still classify it as chick lit, but not fluffy. It's fluffy in the sense that it's incredibly easy to read, based on the fact that I started it today at 1:30 PM and finished 15 minutes ago. Despite its cute cover and girly book club stamp of approval, the characters are much more complex than a Nicholas Sparks novel and the writing was incredibly witty and hilarious. I really enjoyed Where'd You Go Bernadette and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a light, funny and smart read.

WYGB takes place in Seattle, Washington and tells the story of Bernadette Fox, ex-architect, and her husband Elgin Branch and daughter, Bee Branch. Bernadette is drudgingly living the life of a Microsoft wife, which despite her distaste for it, is a pretty cushy, comfortable sounding life in rainy Seattle. She sends her gifted daughter to an expensive private school where Bee shines, but Bernadette is excluded by the Galer Street mothers who she lovingly refers to as 'gnats.' Amidst extravagant plans to take a family trip to Antarctica as a reward to Bee for perfect grades, Bernadette disappears. This book tells the mystery of her disappearance and the events in her life, past and present, that lead up to it. 

Told through emails, letters, invoices and short narratives from Bee, WYGB is a quick read. I also felt personal connections to the story because it takes place in the Pacific Northwest, where Preston is from and where he has openly expressed he wishes to live. He never misses a chance to remind me how lovely the summers are in Seattle or Vancouver any time I complain about the Texas heat, to which I argue that I know about the rain. Bernadette hates Seattle and makes fun of everything about the city, especially its citizens need to discuss the never-changing weather. "Can you believe the weather?" "Actually I can believe the weather." Bernadette is also a former architect whose previous projects included pioneering the green architecture movement in LA and the famous Getty Center- places I've just visited and another interest of my husband. (Preston used to want to be an architect for a long time and is still interested in working with sustainable living solutions and he is also obsessed with the Getty.) Finally, I work at a very fancy mall and when I envisioned the mothers of Galer Street, I couldn't help but imagine my own J.Crew Northpark customers. In addition to my personal connections to the setting and characters, I laughed quite a bit in this book. Out loud. Maria Semple has written for Ellen and Arrested Development, so it wasn't a shock that she had me laughing at Bernadette's laments of Seattle and Microsoft or her feisty dialogue with PTA nemeses. I'm 97% certain this will be made into a movie because it's just one of those books begging for it. Here's an excerpt of my favorite paragraph:

"Don't turn all Jesus on me."
I ignored her and threw my head back. Maybe that's what religion is hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take are of you and carry you to the right place. I don't know if it's possible to feel everything all at once, so much that you think you're going to burst...I felt so full of love for everything. But at the same time, I felt so hung out to dry there, like nobody could ever understand. I felt so alone int his world, and so loved at the same time.

Oh to be 15 again.

Anyway, summer isn't over yet so here's an excuse to spend the afternoon at the pool. I guarantee you it won't take more than few pool sessions to finish this fun and clever read.

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