Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By, Maria Semple

Product Details
·       Hardcover: 336 pages
·       Language: English
·        ISBN-10: 0316204277
·        ISBN-13: 978-031620279

Book Description
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My Review

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a rare book, unlike any other I've read. I read the first few pages, and my nose twitched (a sure sign I was on the scent of a good read).  I swatted Marshall Dillon, my annoyingly curious cat... and, a few dozen cracker crumbs, off my chest and eagerly turned the pages.

Bernadette, that lovely, self-absorbed, eccentric spotted me from behind those glasses of hers, winked, and pulled me right into her story.  What a story!  "Take me with you, Bernadette", I begged, as she planned her exploits.  I nodded in approval when she jobbed out her menial tasks to a nefarious guy-Friday in India.  I had her back when she sparred with her uptight, Suzy-do-gooder, neighbor whose undies were in a twist over berries and mudslides.  I itched to slap some common sense into her genius husband's lofty head, but knew it was too far up Ted's behind for easy access! I felt Bernadette's love for her daughter, Bee, as surely as I love my own.

I munched, read, reacted, pushed the cat...munched, read, threw the cracker box at the trash can...missed.  Didn't notice.  I read right through to the end, so tired that one eye rebelled and closed. I could not stop reading.  The style, perspective and presentation of the story were too compelling. The characters hopped right off the pages to make certain Bernadette didn't get the last word. I saw Bernadette as they saw her...and, my heart fluttered in alarm.  Her detractors couldn’t see the fine line between creation and destruction, or that walls are oftentimes the greatest evidence of fragility. They tore at her, seeking to expose her weakness. Sometimes when you rip away the prickly barriers what remains is too vulnerable to withstand scrutiny.   Bernadette had to go to save herself.  I saw that. As one who has a cave selected in the Algonquin for when I can’t take the stress any longer…I got it. 

My intense love affair with the book lasted right up to the ending.  What? Then, like many torrid affairs, it fizzled to mere infatuation. A complex character like Bernadette is just incapable of tidying everything up as nicely as the ending suggests.  Aside from my peevish point about the ending, there is no way this book deserves anything short of 5 of 5 hearts!  (By the way, mums the word about my forest hideaway! I don’t want my Editor to find me.)

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scarlett Reviews 'Tumbleweeds'

Book Description (per Amazon)

February 5, 2013
Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives. Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145550923X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455509232

My Review

Tumbleweeds starts out very slowly, to the point that I almost put it down.  I’m glad I didn’t.  After plodding through the dry, obligatory, chapters where Meacham established the adolescent bonds between the three key characters of the story, I finally made it to the interesting parts.  I was hooked!  Oh, the shenanigans those three got themselves in to as true love developed in a triangle complicated enough to give Pythagoras a migraine.  Not me! I knew exactly which stud-muffin Cathy would pick.  Or, so I thought.  I munched on a couple more crackers, turned the page, and, “Huh?” 

Leila Meacham was not following the script I envisioned at all! She must be an admirer of Poe and Bronte: such was the angst she created —the plot twists cleverly wreaking havoc— ruining lives and setting the wheels in motion that led me, like a horse to water, down the herring-strewn path to the ending.  Meacham tossed so many herrings about that I felt I was at a fish market. I’ll be squeezing lemon juice on these hands for days!  Still, the ending was clever, if a bit contrived. Dare I say, fishy?  The convenient ending —and, Cathie’s ridiculous choice of man-candy— just irritated the heck out of me, so Tumbleweeds earned 4 of 5 hearts from this reviewer.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.