The last few weeks have been rather hectic in the land of Mallory. Not only are we in the single digit week countdown to Baby Burgey's arrival (7 weeks, 4 days!!), but I have been working like a mad woman. Freelance ghostwriting is amazing because I get to make my own schedule and work from home, however, that also comes with the serious downside that I have always been terrible about 1) taking on too many projects at once and 2) sticking to a schedule. I'm working on fixing both of those issues, however, the last couples weeks have been non-stop writing and crossing things off the baby to-do list. So, needless to say, my reading life suffered. I started September with the goal to read 25-pages per day of Anna Karenina, but that very quickly went out the window (though I am still making my way through AK, and very much plan to finish it before the year is out), and I was also reading a graphic novel called My Favorite Thing is Monsters and a memoir about dying called (you guessed it) Dying: a Memoir. Basically, the books on my nightstand were either very dense or very far from the cozy, fun read my brain needed. So, having just picked up a copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple from the Houston Public Library book sale for $1 (!!!) a few weekends ago, I decided to crack into it, and boy was that a great decision.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette has been on my list for a very long time now. However, for some reason or other, I never managed to pick it up. Despite the amazing reviews I kept hearing and the beautiful cover art, I just kept putting it off. Now, though, I have read it, and I have so many feelings.
First and foremost, the characters in this novel are fantastic. They are quirky and crazy, but in the most believable way, which is a very hard line to tread for many authors. The relationships between these characters was front and center thanks to the unusual format of the book (it was told through emails, handwritten letters, Psychiatrist notes, and FBI files). The reader is able to see how the characters talk to one another, and how the way they talk changes depending on the audience. It shined a light into the deepest corners of their minds, and never flinched.
Second, the world Maria Semple built for her characters was phenomenal. The book takes place in Seattle (and partially in Antarctica), but these characters live in a bubble. The size of their world feels oppressive at times, but it only helps to strengthen the narrative and the characters. The Fox family lives in a 12,000 square-foot home that was once a home for wayward girls, and the crumbling structure is only held together by the blackberry roots that also threaten to overtake the structure (the basement is already lost to the roots and completely inaccessible to the family). The house symbolizes the entire world these characters inhabit. The things that bind them together, also threaten, at every turn, to rip them apart.
Honestly, I wish I had a criticism of this book. I am, unfortunately, the kind of person who leans heavily towards classics and literary fiction, believing somewhere in the back of my mind that "light, fluffy fiction" is barely worth my time. So, I picked this book up thinking it would be nothing more than mildly entertaining and a quick read. However, I put the book down knowing I would be recommending it over and over again to everyone I talked to. The highest compliment I can give this book is that it felt like a combination of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. In my mind's eye, everything was bathed in pastels and shot in perfect symmetry, but cast with characters so flawed that they were capable of burning everything around them to the ground on a whim.
Have you read Where'd You Go, Bernadette or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!