This novel is fast, wildly creative, unpredictable, even a bit zany. Just don’t give up on it. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
Because I nearly gave it up after completing the first section. At that point I thought it was going to be just another satirical look at the unique culture of of the Pacific Northwest. Affluent but dedicated parents in Seattle who compete around school volunteering. Terminal niceness. And one family that doesn’t quite fit in. Fortunately, as I read on, the book became much more complex and compelling.
At its heart is the newly arrived Branch family:
•Elgin – a pioneering genius guru at Microsoft, whose Ted Talk is one of the most watched in history.
•Bernadette – a visionary architect and former MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner, who has trouble settling in after a move from Los Angeles to Seattle.
•Bee – their 15-year-old super smart daughter, with a history of health issues, and a budding interest in attending an Elite East Coast prep school.
From the title, you know that at some point Bernadette disappears. But what you can’t know (and I certainly won’t give it away here) is WHY and HOW. There will be moments when you THINK you understand. But author Maria Semple has a whole host of surprises in store.
You will meet villains who become heroes and supposed heroes who turn out to work purely to further their own self-interest. It’s an interesting tale that examines the illusive nature of “truth” and, more specifically, what can happen when people interpret events differently and BELIEVE they understand something when they don’t.
Semple constructs the novel out of straight narration — supplemented by emails, letters, and assorted reports from physicians, police, and the FBI. It’s a quirky and very fun read.
More about the author.