Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple takes place in Seattle and is about a woman who disappears figuratively then literally first through her marriage and motherhood and then by running away. We can all disappear into something and the book kept me occupied for the first 3 hours of my flight to Boston from SFO.
The narrative unfolds through the eyes of Bea, her child as well as other adults at Bea’s school, at her husband’s workplace, Microsoft, and includes e-mails, notes and other unconventional forms of advancing the story line and dreaded blackberry vines.
An award-winning architect, Bernadette, her husband and Bea live in a decaying former home for unwed mothers. The state of the home comes to symbolize Bernadette’s retreat from creativity reminding me of a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic:
“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.)”
The book includes several biting insights into Seattle culture. A bit like calling Land Rovers Chelsea tractors in the UK but insights exactly fit for Seattle.