Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

My head hurts today, so it’s gonna be a short post.

I liked Where’d You Go, Bernadette, though. Our Heroine is Bee, a high-school student whose mother, the titular Bernadette, disappears after a rapidly-escalating dispute with a parent next door. The story’s told through letters, emails, notes and other found-footage-type paraphernalia, collated by Bee in an attempt to tell her mother’s side of the story.

It’s a good-natured, fun novel which also resists simple solutions. Bernadette has agoraphobia, which reads to the people around her as fecklessness or thoughtlessness; at one point her husband believes she’s a danger to herself, and tries to get her committed. Bee’s project of collecting evidence serves as a reminder that there are many sides to every story – once we have the full picture, Bernadette’s actions look a lot more rational. The novel’s a reminder not to leap to quick judgements, and to treat people with compassion and respect even when they make bad decisions. I’d really like to read more like this: gentle, funny stories that embrace neurodiversity and do some proper thematic work in the meantime.

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