Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

this book has so much going for it: a really acerbic wit, pointy end aimed unwaveringly at the west-coast well-to-do; a fabulous approach; a mystery at the heart of it. but the pony just doesn’t quite go the distance.

the book is told mostly via other people’s emails, legal documents, and bits of digital ephemera. as the story progresses, we get a slowly building picture of Bernadette, a mom who has disappeared. the fun of it is that the emails and etc often reveal far more about the putative writer than Bernadette herself, and so our picture of Bernadette is perpetually skewed by their often bent perspectives. yet Bernadette herself does manage to shine through as an amazingly funny and engaging character.

Bernadette’s daughter, the protagonist, a teen in a mid-level private school, is refreshingly un-ruined by wealth. she writes the narrative that connects all the disparate pieces. as a character, alas, she’s funny but sort of weightless. she herself will not hold you to the page.

making fun of rich people is a shooting-fish-in-the-barrel endeavor, but this writer does it so well and is so funny and apt that it’s a total hoot. the skewering is the best part of the book, in the long run, as the story of Bernadette (as well as the other minor characters) sort of loses steam at the end. and skewering rich people is fun, but not enough to really make a book worthwhile in itself.

so, it’s a fun read. you certainly won’t waste your time with it. but it’s always a little disappointing when a book comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, freshly dressed with a mint sauce that will in no way ruffle any of your preconceptions or expectations.

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