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Uncanny and eccentric seem to us the most appropriate adjectives to characterize this novel by Maria Semple. The main character is a complex and extravagant woman, Bernadette Fox, and through the pages we seem to be entangled by her complex and mysterious traits, which we want to unravel.
This reading has a mix of genius madness and creativity: both the characters and the story seem to undergo constant metamorphoses that can misguide us initially, but then they only fire the desire to find out where did Bernadette go, after all, and we mean it literally and figuratively.
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The book is mostly narrated by the protagonist's daughter, Bee, which, from the start, may help create a biased perception of Bernadette. Why? If for Bee, Bernadette is her best friend and simply a mother, for the rest of the characters she's someone else, more complex, mysterious, even crazy.
It's in a fun and captivating way that 'Where'd you go, Bernadette' shows us the complexity of social life and human relations. Unintentionally, and without realizing it, we take a lesson with each sentence: we never know what's going on in other people's heads, we never know what their problems are, their history, what they hide, and what's their luggage.
Despite appearing self-willed and stubborn to her husband, or crazy and peculiar to her neighbors and acquaintances, Bernadette is much more than that. She is a remarkable, extremely creative woman with a strong personality who's not simply a “disgrace” of a housewife. This character fights two huge battles, and she does it by herself, no one around her notices this. If, on the one hand, she carries the wounds of a huge trauma that has shaken her professional life, on the other hand, she carries the burden of mental illness, that goes unnoticed in the eyes of everyone.
Mystery, drama, humor, and a good dose of reflection, 'Where'd you go, Bernadette' may be a light reading, but its message is quite profound.
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