Before I even delve into the actual contents of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, I need to rave about the audiobook narrator who blew me away. The audiobook narrator was FANTASTIC and felt oddly familiar to me, but I wasn’t quite able to place her voice while I was listening. Upon doing some research for this review and realizing the narrator was Kathleen Wilhoite – it instantly clicked for me! She’s the actress who portrays the mother of Jess in Gilmore Girls, a TV show I spent all winter streaming in entirety! While she was great in Gilmore Girls, I really think her talents are able to shine even more brightly in the narration of this novel.
I found this book extremely engaging while I was listening to it, largely due to Wilhoite’s supreme talents, but when I reflected on it a week later, I didn’t find the actual story to be very memorable. That’s not to say that the storyline wasn’t interesting, because it definitely was, but I mostly remember enjoying the novel as a whole, rather than the actual storyline or the writing style… kind of like when you watch a movie and you remember feeling really happy when you watched it, but you can’t quite remember what the film was actually about.
The novel follows the life of a family living in Seattle and surrounded by the upper-crust community that staffs the tech sector in the Pacific Northwest. The point of view of the story switches often from Bernadette, a mother who stays at home, to her 15 year old daughter Bee, to her nosy and annoying neighbor who has nothing better to do (anyone who has lived in a community with a Home Owner’s Association will recognize and despise this character; parts including her garnered the most laugh out loud moments of the book), to Bernadette’s husband’s secretary, to others in their community. Each of their points of view are conveyed via streams of consciousness, emails, faxes, memos, and newsletters, which add a little flavor to the story. The actual plot of the story, which culminates in Bernadette disappearing, hence the title, is far less interesting than the humorously delivered quirks of each of the characters.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? would be a great selection for a vacation read (even if it’s only a mental vacation that you’re able to take!) because it’ll be plenty entertaining without requiring you to think too much or get stuck mulling over elegantly written passages. It’s a light mystery that will entangle your mind while you’re reading, but isn’t too dark to bring down your mood while you’re enjoying taking a break from your life. I especially recommend the audiobook version if you’re embarking on a road trip! I give this book 5 stars for the narration performance, but only 3 stars for the actual book.