Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Back Bay Books, 352 books, $15.99 (c2012)

This is not a murder mystery, but one of the characters manages to disappear. (Could it be Bernadette? Hmm?)

I’m not immune to the allure of lighter summer fare. Murder doesn’t always hold up well under a bright sun with bees buzzing the multi-hued flowers. I pushed this ahead in the queue thinking it was a “summer read.” That is to say, iced skinny latte, heavy on the froth. Add a lot of sugar.

Nopey, nope, nope.

The delightful teenage Bee (short for Balakrishna — what was her mother thinking!) and her mother, the eponymous missing person, Bernadette Fox, are the central characters. Bee’s father, Elgin Branch, may take up a lot of paper space, but he is such a literary tool, designed to move the plot along without much development. Also present is a major citizen of Wackyland, neighbor Audrey Griffin, mother to one of Bee’s schoolmates. Never seen but indisputably there is virtual assistant Manjula Kapoor of Delhi.

Bernadette and family live in a decaying former school for wayward girls in Seattle. It was to have been a project to distract Bernadette. At the time she and her husband bought it, she had been an architect fleeing an unknown disaster in L.A. But the renovation project stalled before it began. Bee was born and is now in the eighth grade. That’s how long Bernadette has had to fix their home.

Never mind. There are other crazy things coming down the pike to occupy Bernadette's scattershot thinking. It starts with all the (sometimes hilarious) reasons Bernadette can think of — and they are many — not to live in Seattle. It moves on to Audrey’s foot, blackberry vines, mudslides, Antarctica, and loss. Misunderstandings, deceit, psychological fragility, and the burden of simple family stuff add to the mix.

This is a wonderful book, wonderfully written, wonderfully humorous and eccentric. Wonderful.

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