My mom says there is no such thing as a "normal" family; there are only varying degrees of disfunction. But I would say that the Fox family has more disfunction than most. First, you have Bernadette, an artist/architect/genius, who married a computer engineer/genius. They are an unlikely match, and while they but heads the majority of the time, they stick by each other through it all. And then there is their daughter Bee (short for Balakrishna), who plays the "gifted only child who survived a major childhood heart defect" character. Throw into the mix the "gnats" (hippy prep school moms), the FBI and a psychiatrist into the mix and you have yourself the makings of a brilliant, witty and momentarily heartbreaking story.
I absolutely loved the format of the book, which is written primarily through letters, emails, and other documentation sent back and forth by all of the major characters. You never have one person's version of events and it paints a broader picture.
The jokes, jabs and quibs at the Seattle-Microsoft-hipster families reminds me of Portlandia. Author Maria Semple is one of the writers of Arrested Development, so it is no surprise that she has the sarcastic one-liners down to a science.
When the story is told through Bernadette's point of view, I never thought she was loosing her mind. I thought she was hilarious and someone who I would like to have in my corner fighting battles against new-age parentals. But then when her husband chimes in, he makes her sound like she is a threat to herself and those around her.
I won't give too much away, but Semple does flash back and explain what led to Bernadette's mental breakdown. It's dangerous to put all of your self-worth into your career, and to define yourself by what you do for a living and the awards you achieve. It's important to remember that you are more than just what you do from 9-5, because jobs are fleeting and one wrong turn and you might watch your career go up in flames
"Where'd You Go Bernadette" is the perfect weekend read, especially if you happen to be snowed in. There are no great stopping places in the book, so be prepared to continue on long into the night.
Oh, and did I mention there is a trip to Antarctica involved in the plot? How cool is that?