Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, Narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publication Date: 2012.
Length: 9 hours, 36 minutes
Read by: Kathleen Wilhoite
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
After Bernadette Fox goes missing her young daughter pieces together what led up to her mother’s disappearance.

Why I Read It:
I actually bought the ebook of this shortly after it was released because it sounded good but Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity convinced me to get the audio format.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

My Thoughts:
I am so glad I listened to Trish and got the audio version of this book. I was a bit concerned about how well and epistolary novel would work in the audio format but it worked well. It was fun and entertaining as well as a bit heartbreaking here and there.

Some characters (particularly Bernadette’s daughter Bee) I loved from the very beginning. Others had me changing my mind partway through the book about whether I liked them or not. There’s a lot of humor in this book but there are very serious issues as well. A lot has been said about the book skewering Seattle and the Microsoft culture but I think a lot of the satire hits well outside of a narrow geographical area. Corporate culture, aspirational helicopter parents, neighborhood one-upsmanship, and many other aspects of today’s culture are equal targets for Semple’s satirical darts.

I knew Kathleen Wilhoite’s distinctive voice from many television appearances so I was curious to find out how I’d like her as a narrator. She walks right on the edge of over-performing. There’s a point where having a distinct voice characterization for each and every character can become distracting or annoying. Anne Hathaway took a flying leap way past that point in her narration of The Wizard of Oz, Wilhoite, however manages to just barely push the limits of overdoing it and only lost me a time or two. I really hated the way she voiced the psychiatrist. The bottom line however, is that she and Maria Semple’s writing together managed to entertain the heck out of me.

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the narration