By Maria Semple
Rating: 4/5 Stairs
This book? Not at all what I expected. I’d heard it was good, and of course the cover drew me right in. It seems that Bernadette has gone missing, and her daughter is trying to find her. Friends said it was a fun summer read, and has been on my to-read list for way too long. (Still deciding if this will be my “funny book” or my “book at the bottom of my to-read list” in the 2015 Reading Challenge. But I digress.)
All of the above is true. What I didn’t expect was the way the story is told.
For the majority of the book, Ms. Semple uses a series of letters, emails, memos, doctor’s reports, police reports, and an occasional summary from Bernadette’s daughter Bee to set up the weeks leading up to (and following) Bernadette’s disappearance. Things start out feeling a bit jumbled, but as the story unfolds all of the documents are relevant to her disappearance.
My favorite ones to read were those written by Bernadette herself. She is just so overly opinionated.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in the middle of a perfunctory conversation, and someone will say, “Tell us what you really think.” Or “Maybe you should switch to decaf.” I blame the proximity to Canada. Let’s leave it at that; otherwise I’ll get onto the subject of Canadians, and that’s something you seriously don’t have time for.
The humor is dry and slyly inserted in the dialogues. Reading Bernadette’s side of the story really was hilarious.
In a reply to one letter, her friend Paul tells Bernadette:
People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.
A menace to society. It turns out, Paul may be onto something. Bernadette’s lack of creativity over the years has steered her life in this direction, to this moment in time where a bunch of random events collide and snowball and ultimately culminate in her disappearance.
I loved this book right up until almost the end. The second to last section (Part Six – The White Continent) changes the writing style. It becomes a first person narrative told solely from Bee’s perspective. Really, the format from the first five sections would not have worked here at all. But I missed them. There was nothing wrong with Bee and her perspective to finish up the story. It just didn’t work as well for me as the rest of the book. I guess what I’m saying is, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
All in all – a fun, witty, hilarious read. Just don’t ask her about Canada. Glad you went, Bernadette.