12.12.12 Truth & Wisdom

Book Club: Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel

Book Club: Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel

BY Rebecca Fernandez

The inaugural book for The Conversation’s book club was chosen by the fabulous Busy Philipps. I’m so glad this is the book she selected- I truly couldn’t put it down and it kept me guessing until the very last page. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I can’t wait to see what you all think! We’ll be doing a recap and discussion with the author, Maria Semple, in January- so stay tuned for excited book club developments.

Maria Semple’s WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a dazzling satire about the perils of hyperactive modern parenting, what technology does to the family, and a quirky daughter’s search for her beloved, brilliant, misanthropic mother, Bernadette. Semple’s first novel, This One Is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family in Seattle, where WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE takes place.

Here’s the story of how BERNADETTE was born, in Maria’s own words:

“A few years ago I was in a bad way. I had quit my TV writing career and moved to Seattle, where everyone I met seemed to take an instant dislike to me. I was bursting with giggling love for my little daughter, but worried I was somehow wrecking her. I had spent two years writing and rewriting a novel full of agreeable characters, but the pages were lifeless beyond repair. I abandoned the whole thing. I blamed Seattle. Also, I really missed having an assistant. My partner, George, was genuinely worried I had gone insane.

“I was droning on about this to a friend in L.A. He finally couldn’t take it anymore and said, ‘You can’t believe any of this nonsense. Maria, you must write. If you don’t write, you’ll become a menace to society.’ I suddenly realized: this toxic brew of self-pity, defensiveness, love, and artistic paralysis I had become, while humiliating to admit to, was actually kind of funny. The character of Bernadette popped into my head, fully formed.”

Who is Bernadette? 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 fifteen-year-old Bee, she’s simply Mom. When our story opens, Bernadette has disappeared and Bee begins a quest to find her.

Semple’s uproarious send-up of her once hated, now beloved adopted town of Seattle and the devoted Bee’s epistolary hunt for her beloved, off-kilter mother is already one of the most talked-about books of the year and will add Maria Semple’s name to the list of great literary satirists of our time.

I created a site called The Women Take Over, where we celebrate all things feminism and feature inspirational women (and men!) who are making a difference in our fight for equality. I once lost a spelling bee on the word “civilian” and have never misspelled it since. You can follow me on Twitter @ParksFernandez, Instagram and Tumblr if you'd like- no pressure.


  • I’m super excited about this new book club. I have picked up this book in the store more than once but I’m convinced to finally read it!

    • You’ll have to keep us posted, Laura! I loved this book. Can’t wait to discuss it with you!

  • Read this and loved it so much–the humor, the quirkiness, how it’s told in emails and documents…Bernadette is lovable with all her foibles Just a flat-out great read. So now I’m reading Maria Semple’s first book THIS ONE IS MINE and loving it thus far, too. Can’t wait for more of her stories.

  • Stephanie

    Great! I have been looking for a new book, I will have to pick this up to read over the holiday. Thanks!

  • How funny – I just started reading your fabulous website as I was finishing this book. Loved this book – her first book looks great as well. Keep me posted on the book club please

  • I keep hearing about this book and can’t wait to buy it on my Kindle to read over the holiday break!

  • Christina

    Read it Loved it!

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