I picked up a copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette? recently at my local bookstore. I was looking for something light to read on a camping trip and had heard the author, Maria Semple, used to write for Arrested Development (the book's cute cover didn't hurt either). To my surprise, it turned out to be one of the most imaginative and entertaining books I've read in a long time. Semple's innovative narrative uses e-mails, letters, bills, and even F.B.I. documents to piece together the story of Bernadette Fox, a certified-genius architect turned eccentric recluse who disappears before her family's planned trip to Antarctica. Rather than just serving as a novelty, the varying formats of the story work to keep you engaged in the absurd antics of even the most unlikeable of characters.
I like reading trashy tabloids as much as the next gal, but if I'm going to take the time to read a novel I want my trash to at least be well-written. Semple's acute observations and wry sense of humor elevate this novel far above your standard beach read. Maybe its my inner nerd, but I like to feel like I'm learning something from everything I read. The desire to learn often leads me to non-fiction, but its nice to be reminded how great fiction can trigger your imagination and pique your interest in new subjects. In the course of reading this novel, I learned quite a bit about the particulars of traveling to Antarctica, but I was too busy laughing and enjoying the story to even notice. It wasn't until after I finished it, that I found myself daydreaming about Semple's vivid descriptions of towering glaciers and icy alien landscapes. Maybe it was just the heat wave that hit us this weekend, but I feel ready to jump on the next cruise and join Bernadette and the gang on an adventure to the frozen ends of the earth.
[book photo from Barnes and Noble]