Where'd You Go, Bernadette Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go Bernadette tells a humorous, yet emotional tale about 15 year old Bee's mother, Bernadette, and her disappearance. The novel begins with short, humorous emails between Bernadette, and various recipients including mothers from her daughter, Bee's school, and her online "personal assistant". As the story progresses, so does the drama, and soon we realize that Bernadette has gone missing during a family trip to Antarctica. Along with the emails, are various FBI reports and transcripts. These articles are a compilation of the series of events compiled by Bee, who is on a mission to document her mother's disappearance, and solve the case.
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Later, in some of Bee's journal entries, readers get a glimpse of Bee's articulate and awkward personality, as well as the close and complicated bond she has with her mother. Readers also become privy to Bee's strained relationship with her father, and her suspicion of his cheating, and we realize that there is more to Bernadette that meets the eye. At first, we find that she is witty and perhaps a touch eccentric, but under her cool demeanor is a mentally unstable and self conscious female architect with a past filled with torn dreams and stolen prizes.
As the climax builds, Bee and her father take another trip to Antarctica after weeks of Bee's begging. There, Bee is miraculously able to use her intuition and bond with her mother to find Bernadette, and get to the bottom of why she disappeared. Bee is also able to convey her emotions to her father in a way that helps him understand, and they are both able to finally accept one another and gain closure.
Best part of story, including ending: I absolutely loved this story because of the subtle humor and sarcasm, as well as the captivating storyline. I sped through this book because I couldn't bring myself to put it down.

Best scene in story: Although there were so many moments that made me stop and reflect, or laugh out loud, I'd have to say that the scene where Bee and her friend are having a birthday dinner for Bee with her parents at the famous restaurant at the space needle. As the dining room slowly revolves, the birthday cards that travel to each table come to Bee's table, and her mother, Bernadette spots the religious opinions people have written instead of cheery birthday wishes, and she becomes livid. Even though the scene in embarrassing for Bee, it is hilarious to read, and allows readers to gain more insight on Bernadette's character.

Opinion about the main character: Although Bernadette is inappropriate, and comes off as a little crazy, she is ultimately a sensitive and caring human being that loves her daughter more than anything.

The review of this Book prepared by Keirstan Schiedeck a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Bernadette Fox cannot cope with her suburban life and avoids a stay at a mental institution by running away to Antarctica. Bernadette Fox, a former illustrious architect, shares her amazing wit with her husband Elgin Branch, and their daughter, Bee. In their Seattle neighborhood, Bernadette stands out like a sore thumb. Even though her husband is a top executive at Microsoft, she refuses to conform to the yuppie, materialistic standards of those around her. All of the mothers—the “gnats” as Bernadette calls them—gossip about her refusal to conform and her acceptance of being a loner.

At the height of this external conflict with the neighborhood, Bernadette decides to teach her neighbor, Audrey Griffin, a lesson. Audrey decides to chop down Bernadette's blackberry bushes without asking. In retaliation, Bernadette puts up a large billboard facing Audrey's dining room. The disturbance to the ground from these escapades eventually ends in a mudslide that ruins a school charity function at Audrey's home. Because of the ensuing chaos, Elgin decides to have Bernadette committed to Madrona Hill, a mental institution.

This however, does not end well. Instead of going to Madrona Hill, Bernadette leaves by herself on a trip to Antarctica that she had been planning for the whole family. In fact, she simply disappears without saying a word—hence, the book's title.

Upon Bernadette's disappearance, Elgin has a brief affair with another woman, while Bee continues to believe with all her heart that her mother will return. But Bee doesn't stop at just hoping. The studious Bee works to piece together e-mails, letters, and any correspondences that can lead to her mother's whereabouts. Ultimately, she begs her father to take her on the aforementioned promised vacation to Antarctica, where she just knows she will find her mother.

Once on their trip, Bee vigilantly works to find out the whereabouts of her mother on the cruise ship and/or mainland. While Elgin firmly believes that Bernadette is dead, Bee never gives up hope and asks all of the workers and travelers if they've seen any traces of Bernadette. Eventually, she locates her mother at Palmer Station, where she had been working in Antarctica. The three travel back to Seattle, where Bernadette promises Bee a more stable and normal life, one where she resumes her work as an architect and tries not to be such a cynical recluse.
Best part of story, including ending: I loved Semple's use of humor that makes Bernadette a sympathetic character even when she acts irresponsibly.

Best scene in story: I enjoyed the scene in which Bernadette runs over another mother's foot with her car as retribution for her rudeness-- quite humorous!

Opinion about the main character: I liked that Bernadette discovers her flaws and promises to change them. She grows as a character, providing a feeling of hope at the novel's conclusion.

The review of this Book prepared by Bobbie Serensky a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   humorous Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Struggle over    -   midlife crisis Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   unemployed    -   student Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Mentally ill


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Pacific NW Ice Caps/Sea?    -   Yes Misc setting    -   scientific labs

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript    -   little dialog

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Maria Semple Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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