Saturday, January 3, 2015

☊ WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by Maria Semple (✮ ✮ ✮ ✮⭐︎)

Originally, I got a print copy of this book from the library, but a few days later it popped up on my Overdrive window while I was searching for a new audio, so I decided to give that a try.

Written in epistolary format, I wasn’t sure how this novel would work as an audio.  The story line is woven among the first person narration of Bee, the fourteen year old protagonist, and correspondence of various types, from emails to receipts for services rendered.  Not a format I favor in print, let alone audio, but oddly enough, it worked.

This was a book that caught my attention for the humor theme Play Book Tag was reading for the month of December.  Initially, the novel seems very funny, but as you progress through the tale of this bright girl’s eighth grade year, the humor becomes progressively more muted, darker.  Through Bee’s storytelling and the “first person” bits and pieces from the lives of the adults surrounding her, a novel of far greater consequence emerges.  As you learn more about the characters, you become, in turn, more empathetic with each and every one, no matter how buffoonish and unlikeable they seemed at the outset.  In the end, I felt that Play Book Tag’s January theme of relationships far better reflected the novel. 

It is Bee’s relationship with her mother, Bernadette that anchors the story.  When Bernadette mysteriously disappears from a life spinning out of control in some pretty far-fetched ways, Bee begins compiling written records of all kinds from everyone who might be able to shed some light on the situations leading up to her disappearance.  While the plot stretches credulity to the snapping point, it lends to creating the frenetic energy that powers the emotional connectivity between the characters.

The frenetic tone of the novel is very well conveyed through the narration of Kathleen Wilhoite.  I almost gave up on the audio a few minutes into the book, as the frenzied tenor of the reading grated on me.  Luckily for me, it was the middle of the night and I couldn’t be bothered to search for another book, so I persevered.  In the end, I am so glad that I did.  Wilhoite was the perfect narrator for this tale, matching the character of the novel to a tee and imbuing every participant with their own distinct personality.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this ends up being my best audio winner for 2015.

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