Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Posted 14 April, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 28 Comments


Where'd You Go, Bernadette AudioTitleWhere’d You Go Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Published: 2012; Pages: 352
Audio Duration: 9 hrs, 39 mins
Genre: Fiction
Rating: I didn’t want to stop listening

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Bernadette Fox, quirky architectural genius and mom to Bee, goes missing. The events leading up to her disappearance are pieced together through letters, hospital bills, emails, and other methods of correspondence.

Why I Listened: You guys made me do it once again. I specifically blame thank Meg of WriteMeg for urging me toward the audio.

Thoughts in General: I somehow missed that Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an epistolary novel (these things do happen when you make it a point to know very little about a book before reading it). I was taken off guard at the beginning and it took a bit for me to gain my bearings with the book. Soon, though, I just allowed myself to be swept into the craziness of the characters in the book.

Because this is an epistolary novel, perspective and point of view play a large role. What especially struck me while listening was how the characters, many of them mothers whose children attend the same school, viewed one another and placed judgment based on what they knew (or didn’t know) about one another. The truth in this shook me a bit and made me think about how I’ve jumped to conclusions about others–or how others have jumped to conclusions about me. We never really know a person’s entire story…possibly not even if they’ve shared it with us themselves.

The assumptions and presumptions and miscommunications throughout the book were my great takeaway. While on the surface Bernadette seems like a lighthearted read, I found Semple’s social commentary to be biting at times. And there is an underlying sadness throughout the book, I’m not sure I really connected with or cared about any of the characters greatly but I was always certainly interested in getting to the bottom of just what happened to Bernadette…and why.

Bottom Line: Good on so many levels, but best on audiobook. Seriously–if you’re gonna read this one, at least try the audio!

Notes on the Audio: Hands down best fiction audiobook I’ve listened to. The previous record holder was Ready Player One, but I think that Kathleen Wilhoite’s performance dethroned Wil Wheaton’s. It wasn’t until halfway through my listening that I realized who Kathleen Wilhoite is, but her vocal range was so captivating that I hated to stop listening to this book. I’m not sure I would have been so taken with this book in print–hearing the tone of the characters through Wilhoite really made this book shine for me.

Have you read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Can I suggested the audio version to you? 


28 Responses to “Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple”

  1. I did read this but I don’t think I ever got around to reviewing it. Being from Seattle, I loved the localness of it. I’ll probably want to reread it one day and I promise I’ll try the audio!

  2. Thanks for the review! I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile, but also had no idea it was an epistolary novel. Is the book very funny?

    • It does have some funny moments but it’s not quite as lighthearted as I thought it might be. So hard to explain! But the audio really is SO fantastic!

  3. Totally agree with the audio sentiment! I’m not an audiobooker at all (in fact, I think this may be the last one I listened to), but grabbed it because I was driving quite a bit at the time and it was PERFECT. I absolutely died over the section with the sticky key e-mail…I had to play it for my book club!

  4. I listened to this too and thought it was really great. I get what you mean about the sadness running throughout the book – Bernadette was a person with real issues, and even though the book was lighthearted there was a definite seriousness behind it.

  5. Kay

    I love epistolary novels. Love them. So, am I going to be upset with listening to that part? It doesn’t get annoying does it? Some do when read out loud. I’ll put it on my audio list just because you say so. ;-)

  6. This one is on my list! I’ve only tried audio a couple of times and think I must have hit on annoying readers. I need to try again.

  7. I listened to the audio and liked it but didn’t love the story. The references to the Pacific Northwest were pretty funny, though. I think I was a little disappointed because I read it when there was a lot of hype.

  8. I read the print version and enjoyed it. It was very laugh out loud. Also any book set in Seattle rates high with me.

  9. I absolutely loved this one and interesting that the audio was so good too. And, you’re right, all the different misconceptions made me think a bit differently about real life for sure…and my opinions of all the other mothers in the carpool line!

  10. I had NO idea that is who narrated it. I just thought she was awesome and the whole experience was amazing. I agree that the social commentary definitely makes you stop and think.

  11. I loved this one too but I read the print. Looks like the audio will be interesting to listen to though I wonder how well the epistolary format translates to audio. The only epistolary book I listened to was Dracula and that was difficult to follow too initially.

  12. I absolutely loved this one when I read it (I did it on hardcover though) and I also loved RPO( same thing, in paper). Recently I read This is Your Life, Harriet Chance, which had a blurb by Maria Semple, it was fine, but I kept thinking of Bernadette, so it felt short :/

  13. One of my favorite novels! You’re making me think I need to do a re-read, in audio in time. Glad you enjoyed it so much. :)

  14. Better than Ready Player One on audio? wow.
    I really enjoyed reading Bernadette. I liked how even the stock, stereotype characters had growth and changed over the course of the book. A very enjoyable book!

  15. I loved this one in print but I’d almost be willing to do a “reread” in audio if it was good enough to knock Ready Player One off your top spot!