Where'd You Go Bernadette
Maria Semple
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Maria Semple
Year Published
Humorous Fiction
About the Title

Where?d You Go, Bernadette is a novel written by the renowned American novelist and screenwriter, Maria Semple. The novel revolves around the life of Bee Branch, a fifteen-year-old girl who was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The story is set in Seattle and depicts various themes surrounding friendship, marriage, and private-school politics. A key event in the story is the disappearance of Bee?s mother, Bernadette Fox, who is an elegant woman that loves leading a solitary life. She has agoraphobia, and as such is afraid of large spaces. She also dislikes people who are outside her nuclear family. Bernadette does not seem to like performing chores on her own and prefers seeking the services of others, hiring a virtual assistant in India to help with planning a family trip to Antarctica.   

Bernadette also seems to be disturbed by the abrasive culture of people in Seattle. She believes that the support groups in the city are weak and fall short of bearing any benefit to those that seek help. She feels that Seattle is a one-company town, dominated by her husband?s employer, Microsoft. Bernadette is interested in an environment that offers her more diversity (Semple 22) as well as a vibrancy that her current life is lacking. Compared to her earlier life and career, where she was an inspiring and thrilling architect, her current state of affairs is exceptionally downbeat and monotonous. Afraid and anxious about criticism, she now spends most of her time in the family house, which was a girl?s school in the past. The house is dilapidated, with several rooms springing leaks and blackberry vines growing right through the floorboards, a crumbling state of affair that Bee notices (Ramsey 2). Bee is also aware that the current state of her mother?s house is a metaphorical representation of her mother?s personal and professional situation: being on the verge of despair and ruin as she can find nothing interesting in her life.

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