Book of the Month: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

One of my favorite parts of cofounding is picking the books we champion on our blog and through our Book of the Month. Each month, we select a different book to promote and create discussion around. In May, we selected What If? by Randall Munroe. In April, we chose Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck.

At a team meeting a few weeks ago, conversation naturally led to which books we had recently listened to and which we looked forward to reading. Both Nick and Judy (whom you may have noticed around our blog) said that they looked forward to listening to Where’d You Go, Bernadette, a book I’ve enjoyed. We’re all Seattleites, and it takes place in Seattle, so it seemed like a natural fit for our first fiction Book of the Month choice.

Judy went as far as to say that she feared being kicked out of Seattle if she didn’t listen to it soon.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t just for Seattleites though. While a visit to Seattle might help in understanding a few of Maria Semple’s jokes, it draws on broader cultural trends and skewers them at every turn. Helicopter parenting, technology obsessions, organic vegetables . . . nothing is too precious to escape Semple’s scathing wit.

Semple structures the novel in a series of emails. Bernadette has had it up to here with Seattle, the parents at her daughter’s school, and life in general. Becoming increasingly reclusive, she hires an online personal assistant from India to manage her day-to-day affairs. But when her teenaged daughter, Bee, reminds her that it’s time for her promised trip to Antarctica, it all becomes too much. So Bernadette just . . . leaves. And it’s up to Bee to put the pieces back together, sleuthing through her parents’ emails, as well as those of the parents of her schoolmates.

And, of course, hilarity ensues. After all, Semple has written for shows such as Arrested Development and Ellen, so her comedic skills are already proven.

This is one of those books that I keep hearing book bloggers and booktubers say they think is even better on audio. Kathleen Wilhoite does a fantastic job moving from Bee’s adolescent voice to Bernadette’s misanthropic voice, to Manjula’s (Bernadette’s virtual assistant), and every character in between. At one point, Wilhoite is tasked with singing “O Holy Night”, a performance that sends chills down Bee’s spine. She hits the notes perfectly, with all of the emotional gravity that Bee picks up on. As an audience, we can really feel it too.

Listen to a clip of the first few minutes of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, in which Bernadette reluctantly agrees to go to Antartica.

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