Bernadette Fox has vanished.
When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces--which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where'd You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter's love for her mother.
This is a book that was immensely popular several years ago that I never got around to reading. It was also released as a movie, which I watched shortly after reading the book, so this will be a combined review of the book and movie.
Bernadette was an award winning architect before moving to Seattle with her husband Elgin. He took a job at Microsoft and is famous for a TED talk about a project he led that could turn someone's thoughts into action. For example, if you want to send an email, you can simply think what you want to say and it will type and send the message. After years of miscarriages they were finally blessed with a daughter, Bee, but she had some serious health problems as a child. Bernadette threw all of her energy into Bee's care and vowed never to build another house as long as Bee survived. This resulted in the family living in a dilapidated house, that she planned on fixing up, but never had the motivation to begin. She never adjusted to life in Seattle and became a recluse.
Bee asked if the family could take a trip to Antarctica to cash in on her parents' promise that she could have anything she wanted if she maintained perfect grades. Bernadette had severe anxiety about the trip, but could not tell her daughter no. A series of events eventually lead to Bernadette's disappearance. The majority of the story is told through emails back and forth between one of their neighbors and another mother at Bee's school, who happens to be Elgin's new administrative assistant. There are also a number of emails with a personal assistant that Bernadette was using that gives her perspective on the events that were taking place.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and the movie, but I think Hollywood did the book a favor and removed some elements that were not necessary in my opinion. The trip to Antarctica was not what the family had hoped for, but the result was far more than they ever could have anticipated. While there was a considerable amount of drama along the way, this was exactly what Bernadette needed to get her creative juices flowing and bring her out of funk she had been living in years. The scenery in the movie was absolutely stunning and I can see why someone would want to experience it first hand, but I was happy to enjoy it in the warmth of my home.