Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple fulfilled the “Book Being Made into a Movie” category of the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. I double-checked to make sure it was coming out this year. Prep to view the film this August. (So I gotta post this before it comes out.)
I’m a very literal person, not great with imagery, sarcasm, or satire. On the written page that is. I’m great speaking or hearing it. But sometimes I don’t get the big picture. I listened to the book on audio and I still couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
When I read the story, I wondered what everyone was raving about. I felt so sorry for this young girl whose parents were kinda dicks. I hated most of the side characters (more on that later) and didn’t understand what was happening.
Then I referred to some reviews and commentary. Oh, it’s satire. Good, because this novel raised my suburban housewife hackles. I live in a bedroom community and not by choice. Hubby and I are more blue collar than white (though we ended up in the white and pink). We are down-to-earth, no frills, simple people. My husband always gets mad when meals have courses. “Just bring me the damn food.” LOL So we’ve never really fit into the community. I don’t do my hair to drop the kids off. He wears sweats to the youngest’s piano lessons. And we have the worst yard in the neighborhood.
Needless to say, Audrey Griffin, the neighbor, made me stabby. The character was the perfect portrait of these suburban women—busy bodies who want to be over-involved in their kids’ lives, their school, their extracurricular activities but not pay attention to the actual kid. I loved that Bernadette blew the lady off, but I never loved Bernadette until I understood her problem.
Though the work is a satire, it’s about ***spoiler*** depression. I want to reread the story to view Bernadette through that lens. I myself have struggled with job issues and life-purpose. Being a housewife for fifteen years has done little for my self-esteem. I love my kids fiercely, but part of me needs to succeed, for others to respect and honor my success, and for the work to be meaningful.
Bernadette is my spirit animal. She struggles but does not talk about it. She does not spew for hours about her role in life, her failures, and the dismissal of her achievements. Instead, she lets her depression manifest in noncompliance, a house that needs to be condemned and the refusal to view life as it really is.
I didn’t love every page of the book, but I now understand the purpose of the events, the character actions (her husband—I wanna smack him), Bernadette’s disappearance, and the crazy assistant and neighbor. But mostly I felt bad for Bee, the daughter. I wanted to snatch that kid up and take her home where she’d be celebrated instead of ignored. As a mom, it was hard to read about ***spoiler*** Bernadette abandoning her family to find her purpose. But as a woman, I cheered her on.
So, I’m of two minds on the tale. Loved her journey, hated it. Love the format, hated it. Love the characters, hated them. LOL
I give Where’d You Go, Bernadette? a full five Penguins because there’s more to the book than meets the eye and I’m off to reread.