Monday, March 31, 2014

Epistolary novel that will grab you with each dramatic thread and weave you into a fantastic modern plot.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook
By Maria Semple (Author) 
Kathleen Wilhoite (Reader)
Little, Brown & Company; Unabridged edition (April 16, 2013)
Amazon $14.98, ISBN-10: 1478978945
A review by Ginger Dawn Harman

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is an epistolary novel that will grab you with each dramatic thread and weave you into a fantastic modern plot. Humorous, absorbing, and well developed characters will not only entertain the reader but consume you. Set in Seattle, the reader is whisked away into the world of PTA mothers, Microsoft, TED talks, and the Russian Mafia. There are so many stories that the reader/listener will not become bored. Bernadette Fox, a promising architect, who suffers from social anxiety and has become manipulated by a virtual assistant, Manjula Kapoor, located in India.

Suddenly after all seems to fall apart, Bernadette has disappeared. Fourteen year old daughter Bee and top Microsoft executive husband Elgin are swept into a plot by reports from the FBI, overboard tiger mothers, and a promised trip to Antarctica. Their love for Bernadette evokes a wistful energy and a degree of frustration. Bee, the young genius must decipher emails, cryptographic codes, and correspondence from the government to track Bernadette however, it may be too late.

It is almost impossible to pinpoint Maria Semple’s style of writing.
She is a crafted story teller that gives the reader a contemporary tale that is part memoir and part mystery, and also provides so many different perspectives by each character. Parts are written in first person narrative as daughter Bee but the author quickly switches to social satire formed by e-mails and letters. I found this to be fresh and unique. The tone is upbeat and the pace of the novel is full speed ahead.

Kathleen Wilhoite
Kathleen Wilhoite does a fantastic job reading. This was my first book that I have heard that she has narrated. Wilhoite has a talent for emoting the characters and has wonderful inflection. Her comedic timing and personality bringing each word to life. I was really impressed with how well she could switch from 15 year old Bee to Indian virtual assistant Manjula Kapoor. Switching between dozens of distinct character voices without a hiccup requires immense theatrical skill. Moreover, I felt as if I were inside the book and it was presented on stage before me.

Kathleen Wilhoite and Maria Semple have combined their talent with a plethora of emotions using both word and voice.  Humor, frustration, and suspenseful turns and twists will delight those who are ages 18 to 99. I'd highly recommend this book if you're looking for something to entertain and listen to on a road trip or like me, cleaning the house. The story is easy to pick up after pauses and takes the reader to the right place.


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