Literature: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

A novel (as made clear by the subtitle) by Maria Semple about a woman living in Seattle who disappears two days before Christmas as her family is preparing to travel to Antarctica. It is mostly an Epistolary Novel, compiled from emails, letters, and invoices sent among the main characters, with a few scenes conventionally narrated in first person by Bernadette's teenage daughter Bee.

This novel provides examples of the following:

  • A-Cup Angst: Bee is about as far from angst as you'll ever see in a teenager, but she is annoyed that she hasn't grown breasts.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Bee
  • Bargain with Heaven: Bernadette swore to God that she would renounce her architectural visions if Bee survived, which was odd because she was an atheist.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Bernadette's neighbor Audrey wants Bernadette to clear all the blackberry bushes from the hillside that rises above Audrey's house. Bernadette does, during the rainiest winter in a very rainy city....
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Bernadette and Paul Jellinek, from two different cities, over something that happened 20 years ago.
  • Brutal Honesty: Whereas everyone else sees Bernadette as a victim, Paul Jellinek calls her out for Tempting Fate and thus indirectly contributing to the Huge Hideous Thing that happened to her.
  • Catch Phrase:
    Bernadette: "You little rotter."
    Ollie-O: "REAL-TIME ⚡ FLASH!"
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Nigel Mills-Murray, who surrepetitiously bought and demolished Bernadette's Twenty Mile House.
  • Cranky Neighbor: Bernadette and Audrey Griffin are this to each other.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Audrey's son Kyle, who is a poor student and troublemaker at school, is a talented computer hacker.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Elgin
  • Drama Queen: Audrey Griffin takes it Up to Eleven. Bernadette would probably be considered one in another story, but she seems positively laid back compared to Audrey.
  • Dumpster Dive: Bernadette did this a lot when building the Twenty-Mile House.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Bee's real first name is Balakrishna.
  • Epistolary Novel
  • Heel-Face Turn: Audrey Griffin decides she's gone too far when she learns that Bernadette is about to be committed, in part thanks to her lies. She then helps Bernadette escape.
  • Helicopter Parents: In spades. Averted only by the mother of Bee's friend Kennedy.
  • Hollywood Mid Life Crisis: Soo-Lin
  • Ill Girl: Subverted; everyone thinks of Bee as a sickly child because of her premature birth and heart condition as a baby, and its mild lingering effects, but she and her cardiologist think she's perfectly healthy.
  • Kubrick Stare: Invoked by Bee's parents, who call a face she makes at them her Kubrick face.
  • Large Ham: Ollie-O
  • Little Miss Snarker: Bee, mostly when narrating.
  • MacGyvering: Bernadette uses trash and abandoned industrial parts as raw materials to build her two houses, the Beeber Bifocal House and the Twenty Mile House.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: What has happened to Bernadette
  • Missing Mom: Kind of a Foregone Conclusion.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted.
    • One of the "epistles" in the book was a blog entry by Cliff Mass, a weatherman that Bee and Bernadette like. Cliff Mass is, in fact, an actual weatherman in Seattle with a blog.
    • Buzz Aldrin makes an appearance as well.
  • Obnoxious Snarker: Bernadette
  • Old Dark House: Bernadette and family live in one. It was formerly a school for delinquent girls, who were forced to have abortions.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Detective Driscoll provides some hilarious oblivious line when Bernadette is about to be committed.
  • Reference Overdosed: The novel is loaded with commercial and technological references to things considered trendy in the 2010 timeframe.
  • Retired Badass: Bernadette is considered one of the world's most influential architects, but she withdrew to Seattle when her masterpiece home in Los Angeles was demolished.
  • Seattle
  • Take That: Bernadette's emails absolutely skewer Seattle
  • Theme Naming: Several children are named after U.S. presidents; this is most likely the author mocking Seattle parents.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Soo-Lin is in a member of a support group called Victims Against Victimhood, which she details hilariously in her letters to Audrey.
  • Unusual User Interface: Samantha 2, the project Elgin is working on, is a device that allows a person to control a robot just by thinking.
  • Workaholic: Elgin, although it was partly was because he didn't want to deal with Bernadette's rants.