by Maria Semple
SILVER MEDALIST for the coveted Erin's Favorite Book of 2013 Award
My dear husband and I took a trip to Washington D.C. in December to see a couple of dear old friends. I mean, friends we have known for ten years but who are in no way elderly. Anyway, we drove up on Saturday and back on Sunday, so it was a whirlwind affair that promised at least 4.5 hours in the car one way - so my wonderful mother-in-law loaned us a book. She is an incredible connoisseur of all things literature, and quite frankly, she ought to be writing a review blog. I worship her for many reasons, but I don't want to make you jealous, so just understand that my Mother-In-Law is the BEST, and her recommendation of a book is always a good sign.
From the moment I merged onto I-40 and the dulcet sound of my husband's voice began the first chapter, I was hooked. By the time we were driving north on I-95, we were both impressed, and putting the book down to check into our hotel was perhaps the hardest think we faced all weekend. (In a moment, you'll understand the true compliment). As we emerged from the car and gathered the overnight bags, we both asked, "Do you have the book? Good" because we were willing to live without pajamas, but NOT our new found love.
We had an incredible evening at the Arena Stage Theatre in the big city, and an even better late night with friends. The next day, we started the five hour trip home.
Only I-95 is a monument to infrastructure of its worst, and it took us four hours just to get to Richmond.
Did we gnash our teeth? Perhaps.
Were there adult words uttered because there were no children in the car? Probably.
But did we despair? No.
Because while it took us TWICE as long to get home, my husband was able to read 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' in its entirety. It made me cry. It made me scream in outrage. It gave me goosebumps, and it made me yell at characters, and it made me terribly, terribly sad when it was over. Not because the ending isn't perfect, but because I was sorry to see Semple's wonderful point-of-view dance come to an end. There was first person insight, there was epistolary drama, and always, a continuity of voice that made all the jumps and changes feel completely natural. It is absolutely brilliant writing.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It isn't because the "Good ends happily and the bad unhappily" as Oscar Wilde so aptly described fiction, but because 'Good' is found in the most wonderfully unexpected places, and 'Bad' is not always what you think it to be. It sparked some of the most wonderful conversations I've had in a long time.
So... quick! To the library! But be warned - it's really impossible to put down. So you ought to carve out a day and a half to be swept away.