Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

Book Review by Grace Heine

Title: Where’d You Go Bernadette
Written by: Maria Semple
Genre: General-Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: June 7, 2012
Paperback: 351 pages

The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, “What’s most important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.” You’ll notice that wasn’t even the question. When I press him, he says the second annoying thing, “The truth is complicated. There’s no way one person can ever know everything about another person.”

Mom disappears into thin air two days before Christmas without telling me? Of course it’s complicated. Just because it’s complicated, just because you think you can’t know everything about another person, it doesn’t mean you can’t try. It doesn’t mean I can’t try.” (page 6)

It started with an aced report card and a brochure for Antarctica.

Bee Branch achieved all ‘S’s (surpassed excellence) on her report card and as her reward, asks her parents to travel down to the South Pole over Christmas break.

Somehow, despite her mother’s aversion to humans, the trip is agreed to and Bee’s mother begins to plan for their cruise – actually, Bernadette Fox’s virtual assistant located in India begins to plan the trip.

What follows is a whirl wind of blackberry bushes, mudslides, TED talks, the FBI, a Twenty Mile House, and knitting.

Then Bernadette disappears.


I have a new favorite book – and I have no idea why.

In all honesty I should hate this book. There is so much swearing, and inappropriate situations – exactly the stuff I don’t want to read. But whenever I think about those words or scenes I find myself making excuses as to why they had to be in there. (Except for the affair – but I’ll get to that later.)

I love Where’d You Go Bernadette, yet every rational part of me wants to hate it.

I will try to explain my zeal for the book – bear with me:

  1. Bee has a great relationship with her mom and even when Bernadette disappears Bee is wholly devoted to her and finding her.
  2. Bee, although admittedly not a Christian, finds comfort and hope in the song “O Holy Night.”
  3. There was unexpected adventure near the end – enough said.
  4. The ending (which I refuse to spoil) was well done.

It was well done.

None of those should make me love this book as much as I do but I can’t shake the feeling that the book was perfect. While reading I wanted to curl up in a ball with the book clutched to my chest and alternate between crying and laughing.

Okay so the book isn’t perfect. There is a lot of swearing, the dad has an affair because he was drunk and angry with his wife, I really don’t see the point in having the juvenile druggie, and despite how much I loved the ending, it didn’t tie everything up in a nice and neat bow.

There was one, technically two, threads left dangling – and they irritate me.

How to Write a New York Times Bestseller in Three Easy Steps:

  1. Have memorable characters
  2. Sell over five hundred copies a day
  3. Include an affair

I wish I was joking on the last one, but lately it seems every book I read has an affair.

I get marriage is difficult but come on – is it so hard for a couple to follow through on their marriage vows and work out their problems in a less scarring way?

A married man has an affair with a woman who is divorced with two kids. Said woman becomes pregnant and I don’t feel as if the issue ever gets resolved between the man and his wife nor the man and the pregnant woman.

Other than that, I wouldn’t have changed a thing in Where’d You Go Bernadette – even the teenaged druggie made his mother’s story more real.

This book is phenomenal. Yet, as much as I want everyone to read it I can only recommend Where’d You Go Bernadette for mature teens and/or adults.

For More Information about the Book and Author Click: HERE

Age Range: 16 – adult

Cautions*Contains Slight Spoilers*

Violence: A woman claims her foot was run over by a car. Bernadette tells Elgie to hide the guns so she doesn’t kill herself. Elgie says he’s going to kill Bernadette. Elgie falls into a blackberry bush and injures his eye.

Sensuality: There’s an affair. A woman climbs in bed with a married man who isn’t her husband. Rape, re-rape, and polygamy are mentioned.

Profanity: D–n, a–, h–l, s–t, f–k, b—h, p–s, d–k, b—–ds, b-da—s, and God’s name is taken in vain many times.

Other(drugs/alcohol): Bernadette berates “Jesus Freaks.” Kennedy goes to youth group so she won’t get fat. Lots of people trespass. A maid steals. Bernadette does things behind her husband’s back. Detailed description of a malnourished bunny. A woman’s underwear is visible. A woman had four miscarriages. People drink. A boy steals then sells his mother’s prescription medicine along with other drugs. A woman considers overdosing on pills. A man has three D.U.I.s. A boy is sent to extreme treatment for substance addiction, ADHD, and a personality disorder. A group of teens get “wasted.” Evolution, poop, abortions, atheists, and tampons are mentioned.

Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 stars for no apparent reason.
Cleanness Rating: 2 out of 5 stars for quite apparent reasons.

P.S. Where’d You Go Bernadette will soon be a major motion picture starring Cate Blanchett – in theaters on March 22, 2019!

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Grace Heine is a 17-year-old wanna be writer who spends most of her time reading, writing, playing piano, or finding clever ways to be unproductive. You can visit her book review blog here.

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