In Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple creates a visionary story using heart and introspection, which shine through in her equally complex and compelling characters, shaping a text, which satisfies a variety of readers. The author wits and charms readers, investigating the importance of perspective in discussing difficult issues faced by her protagonist, a wife, mother, and talented architect, who struggles to balance her priorities and live up to the expectations of those around her. Semple molds Bernadette Fox’s struggles, which might otherwise be disregarded or labeled as topics for Chick Lit into a relatable and impactful narrative. The author uses Bernadette’s personality, experiences, and the reactions of those around her in ways that bring out her character’s humanity and similarities to readers. She makes us think deeply about how others influence our ideas and our world; and, she makes us reflect on how we can alter their lives in return. Where’d You Go Bernadette blends a successful combination of entertainment while she also keeps minds of readers thinking and growing throughout the text.
From the start Semple helps readers identify with and commit to Bernadette’s plight, which allows them to see the story from her perspective. Readers love Bernadette and find humor in her opinions; because, despite the exaggerated nature of her personality, she is always deeply honest. Her ability to be herself in the faces of her adversaries is impressive and fascinating. She rants about hating everything from the rain in Seattle, homeless people, Canadians, to the other mom’s at daughter Bee’s school. Yet, readers recognize in Bernadette that negative voice we all harbor deep inside. In her beautiful flaws, we’re humbled by our own humanity. Semple skillfully sets up her tale, so that when Bernadette’s words and actions are questioned by those around her, readers take Bernadette’s side. The more family, neighbors, former friends and co-workers point out problems with Bernadette’s behaviors or actions, readers find value in her originality, eccentricities, and pessimism. Thus, readers start to consider what it means to feel really overwhelmed and stressed out. They ponder h and why Bernadette is misunderstood.
Within the context of Bernadette’s story, as told by several different character’s, readers come to see how seriously a person’s life can be impacted by others. Semple introduces the perspectives of daughter Bee, husband Elgin, neighbor Audrey, as she interweaves their encounters with Bernadette along with their theories, judgments about her condition. Readers are asked to consider and interpret all of the accounts and determine the truth. Semple allows us to participate in the story, gather information and choose a side, which readers immediately determine is no easy task. A line is drawn, and the people around Bernadette no longer view her actions as simply inappropriate, they move a step beyond this and decide she is mentally ill. As readers with access to Bernadette’s thoughts, we naturally question this. Instead, we think, she is lonely, unfulfilled, scared. We watch those around Bernadette try to translate her situation to suit their own needs. As readers we realize we don’t view Bernadette as crazy or deranged until we’re influenced, pushed into that mindset by the other characters. Eventually, we realize that as outsiders we know better. We come to learn as observers that no one character gives a completely accurate portrayal. Semple allows us to look at the story from all angles with caution, because we can never be truly unbiased.
The author successfully brings out beauty and magnetism in Bernadette that makes a truly unique and special character accessible and able to connect with by all readers at the same time. Through Semple’s thoughtful and touching blend of authentic characterization and analyses of complex human concerns throughout the text, leads readers to acquire their own insights on a variety of issues. An enjoyable and thought provoking read, Where’d You Go Bernadette, lives up to, and excels beyond expectations. Everything from the diverse contemporary setting to a wonderfully unpredictable protagonist will keep this novel relevant for some time to come.