Where'd You Go, Bernadette

The runaway international bestseller. Over a year on the New York Times bestseller list.


“The tightly constructed Where’d You Go, Bernadette is written in many formats — e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.” Full review

―The New York Times

“Semple’s characters are marvelous: They have untold secrets, personalities with multiple dimensions, moments of failure and grace. Maybe this is what Semple learned writing for the television show Mad About You. Before she left Hollywood — like Bernadette, Semple now lives in Seattle — she was a producer on Arrested Development, and there is quite a bit of that show’s unexpected, antic plotting in this novel. Its many twists and turns are genuinely surprising. Semple has written a fantastic, funny novel. Its affecting characters, not-necessarily-nice humor and surprising plot twists make this novel an enchanting ride.” Full review

―Los Angeles Times

“[I was] stunned and transported by this extraordinarily powerful and intelligent novel.”

―Time Magazine

“Semple paints each character with depth and tenderness while keeping the tone upbeat; no easy feat for a novel about a mother who pulls a disappearing act.”

―USA Today

“Semple, who formerly wrote for legendary Fox sitcom Arrested Development, has the feel for family strife of a born literary novelist, but she retains the comedic sensibility of a screen writer; which is to say that the book is actually laugh-out-loud funny, rather than “humorous.” And don’t let the hilarity of the first third of the book fool you into thinking that this is a light farce; by the last page, Semple, in addition to skewering helicopter-parents with satire so deft that it could pass for truth, touches on religion, class, and what we owe to those we love.”

―Newsweek/The Daily Beast

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is achingly funny and perfectly timed… Semple has a big heart, and possesses that rare ability to skewer, dissect and empathize with her targets, all at the same time. There’s a reason A-list novelists like Jonathan Franzen and Kate Atkinson endorsed this book. Read Bernadette, laugh loud and long, then take a good look in the mirror.”

―Seattle Times

“…A shrewd yet compassionate portrait of family dysfunction and the volatility of genius in laugh-out-loud, irresistibly high-spirited prose. Semple’s greatest success lies in exactly the sorts of delights we’d expect from a writer nominated for a Writers Guild Award for her work on Arrested Development: acid-tongued humor, deftly calculated timing, on-point dialogue, and a deeply self-assured knack for nailing the wacky and eccentric. Her characters, simultaneously larger-than-life and grounded in reality, embody her aptitude for belly-laugh satire and social commentary. As intelligent and enlightening as it is charming, Where’d You Go, Bernadette takes readers on an original and movingly imaginative adventure.”

―Elle Magazine

“Though much of the story is told through documents — e-mails, letters, magazine articles — precocious young teen Bee as narrator is great company, entertaining and convincing in her comportment. Semple pokes fun at the Pacific Northwest as only a Seattlite can and concocts a caper that, if seen from outer-space, might be a mess but in the minutiae of its tangles is clear and rewarding. Under the guise of a hilarious romp, Semple explores the universal questions of why we do what we do and love what we love to some sweet and unexpected ends.”

―Booklist starred review

“Semple’s delightfully sharp-clawed second novel [is] a comic caper called Where’d You Go, Bernadette, about a wonderfully eccentric, vitriolic, MacArthur-winning former architect and the plucky teenage daughter determined to find her when she goes missing. As Molière made clear, there’s humor aplenty in misanthropy, and Semple milks her character’s bile to great satirical effect. There’s a lot to like in Semple’s charming novel, including the vivacious humor and the lesson that when creative forces like Bernadette stop creating, they become “a menace to society.” Even more appealing is the mutually adoring mother-daughter relationship at its warm heart.” Full review

―NPR Books

“In addition to being a gleeful satire of the Emerald City (and people who call it “the Emerald City”), Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also an addictive black comedy about family dysfunction with characters as wild and misanthropic as they are real. The story is told through email exchanges, letters, memos, FBI files, police reports — which allows Semple to do what she does best: write razor-sharp dialogue. At its best, Where’d You Go, Bernadette not only pokes fun at the city but at the biases of transplants — and if there’s anything we all need a lesson in, it’s how to laugh at ourselves. Semple’s the best kind of teacher.”

―Seattle Met Magazine

“Semple is the novelist of the moment. Her second full-length book, the impossibly clever character study-cum-escape fantasy Where’d You Go Bernadette is a gas. Not for nothing, it features a blurb from Franzen himself on the front cover: “I tore through this book with heedless pleasure.” And who wouldn’t? Semple gleefully and skillfully skewers tony private-school PTAs, Seattle’s self-righteous eco-culture, helicopter parenting, software gurus and architecture fetishism — all ripe for skillful skewering — while maintaining a refreshing snarklessness that’s been woefully missing from so much contemporary comic writing today.”

―The Denver Post

Where’d You Go, Bernadette may just be the most unique and hilarious book I’ve read all year. It’s a sendup of the culture of Microsoft and Seattle private schools. An epistolary novel that includes emails, faxes, police reports and even a TED talk. A surprisingly poignant story of a family’s love.”


“And uproarious comedy of manners.”

―People Magazine

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a smart, caperish, very contemporary novel about marriage, mores and family life by an observer who knows the cultural landscape.”

―Kansas City Star

“Jonathan Franzen endorsed it, and we weren’t aware that he liked anything, so we felt inclined to pick it up. We now see why he enjoyed it so much, as it is shares similar themes with his own books (people feeling stifled/trapped by suburban life, the odd, annoying characters one encounters in the suburbs).”

―Huffington Post

“A modern-day comic caper full of heart and ingenuity… The nuances of mundane interactions are brilliantly captured, and the overarching mystery deepens with each page, until the thoroughly satisfying dénouement.”

―Publisher’s Weekly starred review

“The characters in Where’d You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure.”

―Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections

“It was only a matter of time before Maria Semple turned her hilariously wicked, razor-sharp, acid-etched humor loose on Seattle, and set her impeccable laser sights on the heart of Microsoft. At times a tears-to-your-eyes laugher that skewers my own home town (and quite possibly my own mother), Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also a compassionate look at family dysfunction, the paralysis of genius, and good old-fashioned parental love. Cleverly constructed and brilliantly executed, Semple has driven this one home with great authority, and has proven, once again, that she ranks among contemporary literature’s finest satirists.”

―Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a crazy quilt of an epistolary novel, utterly contemporary yet pleasingly old-fashioned, and always light and witty.”

―Stewart O’Nan, author of Emily Alone and The Odds

“Maria Semple dissects the gory complexities of familial dysfunction with a deft and tender hand. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a triumph of social observation and black comedy by a skillful chronicler of moneyed malaise.”

―Patrick DeWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is fresh and funny and accomplished, but the best thing about it was that I never had any idea what was going to happen next. It was a wild ride…”

―Kate Atkinson, author of Case Histories and 
Started Early, Took My Dog

“Brilliant, hilarious, endlessly inventive, and compulsively readable, Where’d You Go, Bernadette grabs you by the collar and never lets go. Semple is not only a masterful juggler, and an astute social critic, she is a magician!”

―Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here

“A delightfully funny book, that constantly catches one by surprise, Where’d You Go, Bernadette combines a shrewdly observed portrait of Seattle-life with, of all things, a mysterious disappearance in Antarctica. A pleasure.”

―Matthew Kneale, author of When We Were Romans and English Passengers

“I expected Where’d You Go, Bernadette to be a sharp, incredibly funny satire of the manners and mores of the city of Seattle. I was really pleased to find that it’s also a marvelous formal piece of writing, cleverly releasing its information to readers at just the right pace to pull them along using its chorus of strong first-person voices. And even more so that Maria’s unpredictable Bernadette was created with such care and control that she managed to loom large, swing wild, and still feel real.”

―Matthew Simmons, University Books, Seattle

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a book I can enthusiastically recommend to anyone wanting intelligence, humor, sharp social insight and intriguing characters. The big pay off is that Maria Semple gives us a great read that feels good. It’s incredibly clever, thoughtful and the humor and irony are genius. A great book club choice as the characters beg to be discussed. Bernadette is a character you will love knowing!”

―Lynda Schultz, Explore Booksellers, Aspen, Colorado

“Full of love, sin, quirky fun and far-out mystery, Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette sucked me in from the get go. Semple immerses you in the flavors of Seattle, gives you a taste of Microsoft, then sends you on a wild ride to the frozen world of Antarctica. Can’t think of a better virtual vacation than this fantastic book.”

―Lilly-Anne Wilder, A Book For All Seasons, Leavenworth, WA

“Once I picked up Where’d You Go, Bernadette I could not put it down. I loved the way Semple cleverly pieced together the story as Bernadette’s daughter combs through email, magazine interviews, and even FBI reports searching for clues. This is a smart comedy and will be an easy sell next summer for the customer looking for a funny book with substance and endearing characters. Unlike Bernadette’s snobby Seattle neighbors, I would love to be her friend!”

―Jenni Wilke, Books by the Way, Vashon, Washington