Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

I went to the meeting today with mixed feelings because I certainly didn't know why the book had been awarded five stars from so many people.  And this is the reason I love us because I came home with a completely different appreciation and a resolve to reread it.  Both Maureen and Mary read it twice and swore than the second time was a breeze and a hoot.  In my defense, I had just finished Goldfinch where two young men have their lives turned upside down because they don't have an adult advocate.  I was feeling very defensive for Bee.

Jennifer and I both started the book, liking Bernadette and sympathizing with her but lost a little empathy about half way. This is where the discussion made a huge difference for me.  Kareen had said that this is a book of Seattle and she thought the author nailed it.  Many in the group were in agreement, plus as Barbara said, if you're a depressive person - Seattle is not the place for you.

We were sympathetic to Bernadette, getting lost in depression after so many miscarriages and a grievously ill daughter, coming after having a career high followed by a geographic relocation.  We talked about Bernadette and Elgie's two careers, both genius but on different trajectories, how both isolated themselves and how that left Bee to become a parent.

The one thing that stuck in Joanne's craw was the house.  She'd been in real estate in equally rainy Portland and was appalled that the house was ignored.  She couldn't believe that no one could smell the mold and mildew. She said that the smell of a house in that condition should have repulsed the occupants.  That was a hard buy-in for me, as my parents left the region because of my asthma.  Bee had asthma and a lung condition that caused her to spit up spume.  I wonder if this is more funny for Seattle-ites.

Joanne said she thought that Bernadette's wake-up moment was when she realized she had nearly given everything away to her Indian "assistant."  We did think that as strange as the arranged intervention seemed to be, that was the moment that Bernadette got it that she had messed up her life and had to change.  None of us were fond of the reinvented Audrey - too dramatic, too weird.  That was a little out there, as was her whacked-out son who was dropped on the survival desert, and the ever absent Mr. Audrey.  And wasn't it just a little odd that it was Audrey who abetted her escape from the bathroom down the ladder?

I asked if anyone thought Soo-Lin was a bit racist, the gratuitous Asian computer geek.  They said no - she was genuine Microsoft geek.  Jennifer wondered about why the author inserted Soo-Lin's pregnancy at the end of the book since it was dangling without development.  The ending was a source of much discussion.  Joanne and Maureen both pandered the idea that Bernadette could have just inserted herself uninvited into the scientific community in the South Pole.  Oh and Diana got a kick out of us reading this at the same time that the Russian ship full of scientists was trapped in ice at the North Pole.

 We loved the principal who was a steady-eddy in all the hysteria and the part-time school program developer, Ollie. At the end of the discussion, I realized that I had missed the fun of the spoof and I have first book of my summer reading already in place.