Book Club // Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Book Cover Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Maria Semple
Little, Brown and Company
August 14, 2012
9 hrs 36 mins
Purchased via Scribd

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect; and to 15-year-old Bee, she is her best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette vanishes. It all began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and surprisingly touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

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*SPOILERS* This discussion will happen as I am reading the book in real time. Due to the nature of the LIVE (as live as it can be) discussion, SPOILERS will appear in the post.

With that said, Welcome! I hope that you will join along in this LIVE read and discussion. Here is a bit about how this will work.

  • After every 5th chapter, an UPDATE will be posted in the general chat update section. And it is just that, a simple update of my thoughts on what I read.
  • After each update, if a DQ can be answered, or partly answered, I will post my thoughts to the question. There may be more DQ’s added if something pops up that I need to ask.
  • Readers are welcome to follow along with the reading and answer any questions to updates or to the DQ’s. If you’re already read the novel, please share what DQ’s came up while you were reading.

General Chat Updates

This is the spot where I will post updates as I read. Not so much specific to answering discussion questions, but more about what I read and what I though about it as a whole.

Book Club Discussion Questions

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is told from the point of view of a daughter trying to find her missing mother. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from Bee’s perspective? What light does it shed on the bond between Bernadette and Bee?

What are your thoughts on Bernadette’s character? Has she become unhinged or has she always been a little crazy? What, if anything, do you think sent her over the edge? Have you ever had a moment in your own life that utterly changed you, or made you call into question your own sanity?

When Bernadette relocates from Los Angeles to Seattle, she must cope with being a transplant in a new city. Have you ever moved, or even stayed put but switched jobs, and had to adjust to an entirely different culture? What was it like?

The idea of going to Antarctica becomes too much for an already frazzled Bernadette to bear, but the trip itself, surprisingly, turns out to be exactly what she needs to get back on track. How do other characters in the novel experience their own breakthroughs? Which character is most transformed?

How are Audrey Griffin and Bernadette Fox more alike than they realize?

Bernadette often behaves as if she is an outsider. Do you think she is? If so, do you think her feelings of being an outsider are self-imposed, or is she truly different from the other members of her community? Do you ever feel like an outsider?

The book has a very playful structure. Do you think it works? Why do you think the author chose it rather than a more straightforward, traditional structure? Think about other books with unusual structures and how their formats influenced your reading experience.

What do you think of Bernadette and Elgie’s marriage? Is it dysfunctional? Is there real love there? How has their marriage changed over time? Think about romantic relationships you’ve been in that have evolved, positively or negatively, and why.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is, at its core, a story about a woman who disappears, both literally and figuratively. Were you able to relate to the book? How and why? Do you feel Bernadette’s disappearance was unique, or do all women, in a sense, disappear into motherhood and marriage?

Now a Major Motion Picture starring Cate Blanchett in theaters in August.