Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Maria Semple
Little, Brown and Company

Ms. Hen chose to read this book because it is about a woman with anxiety, and there aren’t many novels on this subject.  Ms. Hen likes reading books about mental illness because she usually learns something new. Ms. Hen has been reading some fantastic books since the beginning of the new year, but sadly, this book was an exception.

WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE is a plot-driven novel. It is meant to capture the reader’s attention so she’ll finish it quickly. This book is written in a different format than most of these types of novels, however; it is written in the form of emails and messages between the characters. In between the emails and notices, the novel is told through the point of view of Bernadette’s fourteen-year old daughter, Bee.

The book starts with Bee telling her parents that she received perfect grades for her report card. Her parents had promised she could have anything she wanted if she got perfect grades all through school. Originally, she wanted a pony, but she changes her mind and wants the family to take a cruise to Antarctica. Her parents consider it and say yes.

Bernadette hires a personal assistant from India to take care of her affairs. She hates dealing with people in her everyday life. She hates her daughter’s classmates’ parents; she hates talking to people in stores. Bernadette, and almost all of the characters in WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE are despicable people. It’s difficult to spend a lot of time reading a book in which most of the characters are horrible, ignorant and rude.

The reader discovers why Bernadette is like this: she is a failed architect. When she was younger, she was an up-and-coming architect in L.A., but she had a big disappointment and fled to Seattle with her husband. She detests everything about Seattle.

The one good aspect of this novel is the description of the cruise to Antarctica. Ms. Hen never had a desire to go to Antarctica, but after reading about riding a kayak through the ice at the bottom of the world, she decided this is something she would consider doing. Ms. Hen would love to see blue ice, and she can imagine herself as a hen in a kayak, waving at the penguins and floating through the icebergs.

Ms. Hen thought this novel was too sitcom-like, and it is no surprise that the author, Maria Semple, used to write for sitcoms such as MAD ABOUT YOU and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Ms. Hen does not think a novel should be like a sitcom. She thinks a novel should be something elevated about the usual sitcom jargon. But that is one hen’s opinion.

Ms. Hen didn’t love this book. She didn’t enjoy reading a novel full of spiteful characters. Bernadette is a difficult person to spend time with, and the rest of this sorry lot isn’t much better. Ms. Hen gives WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE? two and a half feathers up.

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