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Where’d You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple

It’s very unusual that I manage to finish a novel in three days in the middle of a busy workweek. But like an addictive sitcom rented from Netflix, this novel is hard to put down. Also, truth be told, the addictiveness of this novel led to some dereliction of duty.

This book is a completely hilarious social satire, the screwball story of an extremely intelligent and neurotic mom trapped in the neurotic world of helicopter parents pecking each other to the point of drawing blood. The novel is set in Seattle and zooms in on the brand of urban provincialism that is translatable to many modern American cities. Ms. Semple spares no manifestation of contemporary culture as she reveals the minds of her crazy cast of characters in epistolary style.

Other than young Bee, few of Ms. Semple’s characters initially are likeable, but most become sympathetic, and some even heroic by the end. This is fortunate because my only frustration with this book is that at times, the snarky undertone was too much. It occasionally seemed Ms. Semple was hellbent on creating a compendium of every annoying facet of contemporary culture, albeit in snappy, clever fashion. Perhaps the more apt addictive metaphor to describe this novel is a bag of Sour Patch Kids. Sour. Sweet. Gone.

At any rate, the plot is fast-paced, ingenious, and topsy-turvy. Ms. Semple pulls off the narrative brilliantly with her mix of letter/fax/email, narration, a captain’s report, and a tape recorded transcript. This novel is the quintessential summer read, so get to it because sadly, summer is drawing to a close.

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