I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I love eccentric people. It is always so refreshing to me to find individuals who march to the beat of their own drummer---regardless of what other people think. Bernadette Fox is one of those people. In Maria Semple's new novel, Bernadette Fox is a woman who has lost herself. A former architecture student and MacArthur grant winner, Fox is now a near-recluse who spends her days in her decrepit Seattle home (a giant former girls school) while caring for her successful Microsoft-guru husband and bright 15-yr-old daughter Bee. Bernadette definitely doesn't fit in with the other private school moms and has made more than a few enemies among them--most notably her next door neighbor, Audrey Griffin. One day, Bee brings home yet another perfect report card and announces that she wants a Christmas trip to Antarctica as her reward. Bernadette's agoraphobia and anxiety about the upcoming trip begin to wear on her and one day she disappears. In order to find her mother, Bee puts together a paper trail of e-mails, notes, documents and secret correspondance. The reader plows through this evidence along with Bee as we try to determine what happened to Bernadette.
Bernadette is a really great character. Her reactions to things made me laugh out loud several times. You understand that she is borderline crazy but she manages to remain charming in spite of her flaws. In fact, every single character in the book is complex and flawed. Audrey Griffin started out as a fairly one-dimensional villain but Semple manages to flesh her our more towards the end. The book was a really fun read and I loved the relationship between mother and daughter. While the ending was a bit far-fetched, it did not dampen my overall enthusiasm for the story.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A charming mother/daughter tale with a slight mystery to it. Especially recommended for those who love quirky characters. This would make a great vacation read.