Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Where'd You Go Bernadette? - Maria Semple (Audio)

It is kind of hard to be milling around the bookish world and not have heard of this book.  Great reviews, just recently nominated for the 2013 Women's Fiction Prize, AND has already been optioned for a movie (no release date or casting info announced)!!!  I have Bermudaonion to thank for gracing me with this audio so I'm not the last person on earth to read it for once.

Synopsis:  Who is Bernadette Fox?  She is the wife of geek-genius Elgin Branch, of Microsoft.  She is a famous architect who abandoned her career in San Francisco after a bad scene, and moved with her family to Seattle (which she HATES).  She is mother of Bee, a gifted 8th grader who attends a private school.  She is a madcap, reclusive rebel who refuses to play nice with the private school "gnats", and outsources her entire life (shopping, making appointments, handling paperwork) to a personal assistant in India.  True, her actions may seen a bit eccentric, but her heart is in the right place.  

And then one day, after a series of events that have escalated Bernadette's anxiety (including an impending family cruise to Antarctica), she disappears. 

Through a collection of e-mails, letters, itineraries, invoices, police reports and school newsletters, we trace Bernadette's steps over the years, through her MacArthur grant and rise to fame, her crash back to earth, a mudslide, a fishing vest, anxiety medications, the FBI, an intervention, and hours of laughter.

My thoughts:  I don't know what I expected with this book, but it knocked my feet out from under me.  I can't remember when I laughed so hard!  How on earth do you encapsulate everything that Bernadette is?  

So much of this story hit close to home for me.  Once a career woman, now a stay-at-home mom myself, I could completely sympathize with our protagonist. Yes!  There are days (weeks!) when I don't want to leave the house.  (It usually starts around April for me.)  Outsource the calendar and the shopping?  I'd love to!  Or how about the meddling, micro-managing, clueless helicopter parents that basically run a private school?  I love the term "gnats".  I know a few of those.

The tone was wild was sarcastic, Bernadette was a pisser, and I loved it all.  I've got your back Bernadette.  You want to run away?  I'll come with you.  I loved Bee too.  Whip smart and independent.  The apple didn't fall too far from the tree.  

But there was a sneaky, dark side to the tale.  Just a little bit of one, to keep the story grounded.  Still, the pace never got bogged down.  You could hardly keep up with all the action.  

But I must admit that 75% of my enjoyment of this story was due to the audio version...

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator (one I won't soon forget) was Kathleen Wilhoite.  So when I look on Amazon, I see this is her first audio book.  What the hell?  But then on IMDb, I learn she is an actress and a singer-songwriter.  Now it makes sense, except for the fact that this is one of the best-narrated books I've ever listened to, and the audio world is totally missing out if they don't snap her up NOW.  She absolutely made this book for me.  Not only does she have perfect comedic timing, but holy crap CAN SHE SING.  I didn't expect that little treat.  For those of you who have been around and listened to me rant and rave about Lenny Henry's narration of Anansi Boys, I'd put Ms. Wilhoite right up there with him.  I'd like to see (hear) more from Ms. Wilhoite please.

Audio book length:  9 hours and 39 minutes (336 pages)

5 out of 5 stars      


20 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I knew you'd love this! I'm not sure anyone else could have pulled off an epistolary novel the way Wilhoite did. I literally got chill bumps when she started singing!!

Beth F said...

I read this in print but loved it too!

Jackie Bailey said...

I knew you'd love this one too! I found it really entertaining and was really pleased to see it make the WFP longlist.

Anita said...

I really enjoyed the audio,of this one too.

Zibilee said...

I can't wait to listen to this one. I have heard so many good things about it, and I love that it's so funny and sarcastic. It sounds like Semple really hit it out of the park with this book. Very nice and enthusiastic review today!

Melissa said...

Well, I seem to have managed to mill around the bookish world, and missed this one! Guess I need to mill around more. :) Can't wait to add this to my must listen to list!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oh oh, I need to read this! I need to go to the library website right now and see if they have it!

JoAnn said...

I thought this was so much fun in print...I'm tempted to listen to it now!

Linda said...

I've been looking for a great audio book. I'm putting this one on my list. Great review.

caite said...

I have this one..sadly not audio..sitting around here. Wow, I need to read it!

Michele said...

Just picked up the dead-tree version at the library yesterday!

Carrie K. said...

Just put this on hold at my library's Overdrive site!

Jeane said...

My sister's reading this right now and she says it's great. I thought it would either be annoying or amusing that she hates Seattle (where we grew up) but she says it's very funny.

Tasha B. said...

This has been on so many favorite lists. I should really read it.

Julie P. said...

Kathy felt the same way about the audio version as you did. I was jealous since I read the print version (although it was quite good too!)

Literary Feline said...

A friend of mine is reading this right now and can't stop talking about it. I am glad you liked it too! It sounds like this might be one I want to check out in audiobook. Thanks for the great review!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Glad tp hear it didn't disappoint. I'm waiting for a copy from the library right now!

Bonnie said...

I agree!! I loved this book on audio...so quirky and unique!! The narrator was awesome...she was on Gilmore Girls and I kept picturing her as I listened to the book. It's on my favorites list for 2013. I just finished The Good House narrated by Mary Beth Hurt and that was also an excellent narration!!

Jenners said...

I agree 110%! Wilhoite MADE this book and it is a must for audio. Oh how I loved Bernadette!

stacybuckeye said...

I wish I had listened to the audio, I might have liked this one better :(