Thursday, 8 August 2019

Where’d You Go Bernadette? (Mindscape Reviews)

Hi Readers! How are you all doing? We’ve still got incessant rains & there’s no telling when it will stop. Praying for the best! But, there’s a positive to it. These rains make me want to curl up with a book & drink hot chocolate. And, that’s what I did! For the past 2 days, I have been reading ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette’ by Maria Semple. Here goes the review! No spoilers!

Like every other novel that I read these days, I had seen this one in many recommendations! So, I finally took it up. It is the story of Bernadette Fox; how her crazed past & her anti-social present ultimately led to her mysterious disappearance. Once you start this & get completely in the groove of it, it will be impossible to put the book down. You need to read the book to know.

Create your Bernadette Emoji here 

The main character in the novel is Bernadette Fox. She is the most flawed, erratic & unstable character ever written. Yet, you will find her relatable in some miniscule way. She was a genius architect with her own crazy vision because of which she had won the McArthur Grant. But, because of circumstances, she moves to Seattle to raise her family. She hates interacting with people & so she hires a virtual assistant in India to do all her work for her. (Wish I could have that privilege!)

Balakrishna Branch, aka Bee Branch, is Bernadette’s daughter. She is like a mini-Bernadette when it comes to brilliance. She is a genius with the perfect grades. The only difference is that she is actually liked by everyone at her school & community. She is a fifteen-year old kid with a brain, conviction & a lot of faith in the world.

Elgie Branch is Bernadette’s husband & Bee’s father. He is a senior professional at Microsoft earning the big bucks. He is level-headed & practical in his way of life. Lastly, Ice Cream is Branch family’s dog!

Some other characters are Audrey Griffin & Soo-Lin Lee-Segal who are parents at the same school. They always seem to have the latest gossip. While they seem inconsequential, their say turns out to be quite crucial in the story.

As the title suggests, Bernadette has disappeared in thin air! The book is written brilliantly. In the first 55-60% of the book, the story is conveyed by way of emails, post-its, reports & such other documents. I truly truly loved that because even if it were many different documents put together, the story was always aligned to all the paraphernalia. Isn’t that the work of a genius?

So, in this first part, we get to know about Bernadette’s present as well as past life. In her present life, she mostly describes her life in mails to her virtual assistant Manjula. In her past life, we get to read mails between her & Paul Jellinek (her professor of architecture.) We also get to see a lot of back & forth mails between Audrey & Soo-Lin catching up on other aspects of the story, such as Audrey hosting the school’s kindergarten party & Soo-Lin who gets promoted as Elgie’s Admin at Microsoft. That way, we are kept abreast of everything that’s happening everywhere.
Bernadette’s disappearance happens because of a lot of events, but mainly because Elgie questions her mental state & wants to put her in a mental institution. She apparently runs over a mother at school. She has a huge billboard erected just to taunt Audrey. She hoards prescription medicine. She has suicidal tendencies. She suffers from social anxiety. She wears unusual fishing vests, goes to sleep in pharmacies & has strange men stalking her. And, she also somehow gets involved with Russian Mafia who have all her details. So, yes, obviously her husband decides that she needs to be sent in a mental institution. And then, in the middle of her intervention, she disappears.

The next half of the book involves Bee’s journey to find her mother. Since Bee scores perfectly, she gets to go on a trip to Antarctica as a reward. They get a lead that Bernadette was on the ship to Antarctica. So, naturally, Bee & Elgie follow her to Antarctica. And yes, the rest half of the book is on a ship to Antarctica! How COOL is that?

Is Bernadette off to Antarctica all alone? Why didn’t she come back? How did she disappear in the ship yet again? Did she die? Is she alive in an isolated igloo somewhere? Will Bee find her mother? No one has a clue. I’m not giving any spoilers here, so you need to read it now!

The story is written from the perspective of Bee. The first part of the book contains all the email exchanges between a lot of people, the type of story writing I absolutely enjoyed reading. In the second part of the book, it is a more simpler way in which Bee is describing the journey of finding her mother. These two different ways of writing create the perfect balance. Both the parts are equally enjoyable & fun to read. You will love the characters & their development throughout the story. The beginning, end & past flashbacks, everything is nail-bitingly interesting to read. It is an amazingly well-written character-focused story with a great end as well.

I have rated it at 4/5 on Goodreads. The book to movie adaptation is coming in theatres in US on August 16th starring Cate Blanchett. I cannot wait to see how well they have created the movie version.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comments below!
Until next time,

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