3.5 stars. This is a strange little book. I know a lot of cannonballers have read this and it was so popular that most people will have at least heard of it. It’s been on my TBR for ages and ages honestly. I might not have read it if I’d known it was satire. My preferred satire delivery method is via the screen not the printed word. It makes me uncomfortable to devote several hours to it. Luckily, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a cross between satire and a regular novel. The satire starts strong and fades a little as the story goes along, making it more readable.
The novel features a kooky, fairly unlikable cast of characters and is mostly epistolary, told through a series of emails and documents. There’s fifteen year old Bee who is more than a little spoiled, but manages to be sweet too. She makes great grades and asks her parents for a trip to Antarctica with them. Her workaholic dad, Elgin, and agoraphobic mom, Bernadette, reluctantly agree. In the weeks leading up to this trip, Bernadette and Elgin’s lives start to spiral out of control, ending with the disappearance of Bernadette.
I think what makes this book work is that even though it’s far fetched taken as a whole, it skewers the white upper middle class through a series of very realistic moments. There’s a subplot where Bernadette hires a personal assistant in India, pays her 75 cents an hour, and then proceeds to use her as a virtual therapist. Not only does this assistant have to take care of the most basic tasks for Bernadette, but she has to listen to her go on and on about her rich white people problems while making a tiny fraction of what Bernadette spends on dinner. It’s hilariously awful and so, so real.
I listened to the audiobook version which might have been a mistake. The narrator was good, but this is a difficult book to narrate. There are so many characters of different nationalities, genders, and ages that it’s bound to go wrong occasionally. The fifteen year old Bee sounded like an eight year old and the occasional various asian and oceanic accents were cringeworthy. This is one of those books where they probably should have cast a few different narrators.