Where’d you go, Bernadette?
By Maria Semple
It is difficult to find engaging contemporary fiction featuring modern characters that do not lean towards twee-dom. In Where’d you go, Bernadette, Maria Semple has crafted an epistolary work told in a crisp, contemporary manner.
Bernadette’s story is engaging and interesting without being coy or contrived. Plot twists are memorable, yet believable. Character outlines are recognizable but the author fills them in with quirks, personal failures and redemptions that are rich and ring true.
The story is set in Seattle, home of Microsoft which serves as a sort of mother church. The town is chocked full of Craftsman homes and on their porches Patagonia clad owners sip coffee. The owners either sport short grey hair or alternatively, long grey hair. Bernadette is weary with the monotony of the “gnats” that populate her daughter’s school pick-up lane. The “gnats” see Bernadette as anti-social, superior and too far removed to consider anything but a non-participatory parent.
What the “gnats” don’t know about Bernadette’s past explains in large part her weariness. Suffice it to say that Bernadette finds genius difficult to maintain over the years.
A perfect companion book is House by Diane Keaton. The author has gathered glossy visions of the best of modern architecture, crisp and contemporary.
“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” Frank Lloyd Wright