OK, I guess I'll call this my annual Beach Read. Except this time it was a Listen, not a Read. Certain books work well as audiobooks, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple qualifies. The book consists entirely of a collection of documents – e-mails, letters, texts, even FBI reports. That may sound clunky, but Semple's witty, satiric tone makes the narrative flow smoothly.
Bernadette Fox is a Seattle housewife, mother of clever middle-schooler Bee, married to Microsoft super inventor Elgin Branch. And she is not a happy camper. Those of you who are fond of Seattle and admiring of Microsoft may want to skip this one, as Bernadette eviscerates both with a witty (maybe a little snarky) commentary that made me laugh and wince at the same time. In addition she dismisses her fellow middle school mother as 'gnats', and becomes a virtual hermit in a old mansion so rundown that blackberry vines poke through the floorboards and roof leaks are part of the decor.
When Bee decides to redeem her parents' promise of a reward for straight A's (actually straight S's for Surpasses Excellence – the lowest grade is W for Working Towards Excellence) by demanding a Christmas trip to Antarctica, Bernadette's panic at planning the trip (and leaving the house) leads her to a series of unfortunate decisions, while Elgin's workaholic inattention to his family's difficulties makes things even worse. Disaster ensues and Bernadette disappears.