Author: Maria Semple
Provided Synopsis: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
Review: Bernadette Fox lives in Seattle, and she hates it. The weather is predictable, the people are so nice they might as well be Canadians, the intersections have been designed in a disorderly fashion, and Washington state is way too close to Idaho to be normal. Because of the reasons above, Bernadette prefers to avoid contact with everyone, including the mothers of her daughter’s school, and hire a personal internet-assistant from India to take care of her daily needs. For the past twenty years she had been living in this manner until one day she becomes involved in a conflict with her neighbor (and mother of one of her daughter’s classmates) over the unruly growth of blackberry bushes on Bernadette’s lawn. Things escalate from that point, enough so that her husband begins to get a clue as to what is happening at home (or at least, what he thinks is happening) and wishes to seek help for his wife.
In order for this story to be told, there are countless excerpts from emails and other documents arranged in chronological order. Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, makes this story to free her mother from the unjust accusations that have been placed against her. Bee also wants to create a paper trail, so that she might follow what happened exactly in order to find Bernadette once she suddenly disappears.
The main reason that I would recommend this book to others is because I found it to be hilarious. All of the characters have strong voices that come across in their emails to one another. While I may have not liked a majority of the characters they all played a role in the story as it unfolded, often times leading to hilarious situations due to general obliviousness, eccentric families, witty anecdotes, and sarcastic observations. This was a story that read quickly, neatly, and managed to be enjoyable from the beginning to the end.