If you’ve read this book I want to discuss it with you!
If you haven’t read this book, here’s why you should!
1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is told from the point of view of a daughter trying to find her missing mother. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from Bee’s perspective? What light does it shed on the bond between Bernadette and Bee? Bee was the least biased character in the book. She was a window to show the exaggeration of all the adults around her. I think it shows how close they were since Bee didn’t give up hope and collected a huge amount of documents just to find her.
2. What are your thoughts on Bernadette’s character? Has she become unhinged or has she always been a little crazy? What, if anything, do you think sent her over the edge? Have you ever had a moment in your own life that utterly changed you, or made you call into question your own sanity? I thought her character was a little extreme. At the beginning of her life she picks a fight and holds a grudge to the point that she loses her house. She was very hot headed. I think her extreme swings in personality were a little crazy. She then became apathetic when she went to Seattle to the point that their house sounded like a health hazard. I wonder if it was the miscarriages that really sent her over the edge. I think at first it seems like she was moping over her lost house, but I think she was really mourning for her lost kids. It was an interesting experience reading about her because from an outside perspective she did seem a little crazy, but at the same time she was so relatable that it felt like I really understood why she did things. Maybe crazy people are just people who have motivations that we can’t see or don’t understand. In my own life I wondered if I could even handle having a kid. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but three kids later it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. Hard things make you grow the most.
3. When Bernadette relocates from Los Angeles to Seattle, she must cope with being a transplant in a new city. Have you ever moved, or even stayed put but switched jobs, and had to adjust to an entirely different culture? What was it like? I moved a lot when I was first married and I really empathized with Bernadette feeling outside the community. To feel a part of any community you have to make an effort. Being on the outside feels like this constant, small fear that you are doing something wrong or that there is something wrong with you. It’s unsettling and I could see that her reaction would be to hate all her neighbors.
4. The idea of going to Antarctica becomes too much for an already frazzled Bernadette to bear, but the trip itself, surprisingly, turns out to be exactly what she needs to get back on track. How do other characters in the novel experience their own breakthroughs? Which character is most transformed? I kind of think her gossipy neighbor, Audrey, changed the most. She really started to see Bernadette’s side of the story and put other people first. Audrey faced reality for the first time and dealt with it better than I thought she would. Bee realizes she wants to stay with her family. Bee’s father realizes he works too much.
5. How are Audrey Griffin and Bernadette Fox more alike than they realize? This question surprised me. I think the thing that they have most in common is that they are a little disconnected with reality. I couldn’t think of anything else!
6. Bernadette often behaves as if she is an outsider. Do you think she is? If so, do you think her feelings of being an outsider are self-imposed, or is she truly different from the other members of her community? Do you ever feel like an outsider? I think she is different from the community but that doesn’t mean you have to be an outsider. Like I said before, feeling outside a community often comes from distancing yourself from the community or not being involved or not putting yourself out there.
7. The book has a very playful structure. Do you think it works? Why do you think the author chose it rather than a more straightforward, traditional structure? Think about other books with unusual structures and how their formats influenced your reading experience. I love the structure and humor of the novel. I wish more literary fiction was written this way. I would read more of it if it was. I think this structure added to the mystery since it allowed you to come to your own conclusions by seeing things from many perspectives but without being confusing. I also think it did a great job of showing the story so the reader could use their imagination which made it very entertaining and fun to read. I can’t think of many stories that have a unique structure but one that comes to mind is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children that was partially told through photographs.
8. What do you think of Bernadette and Elgie’s marriage? Is it dysfunctional? Is there real love there? How has their marriage changed over time? Think about romantic relationships you’ve been in that have evolved, positively or negatively, and why. I don’t think it’s dysfunctional but they have grown apart. I think they do love each other, but they have stopped talking to each other and have stopped trying. They had different expectations about the other person and about their relationship. Elgie just assumed that Bernadette must be happy and would start doing her work again eventually. He doesn’t really bother to find out why she never fixes their house.
9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is, at its core, a story about a woman who disappears, both literally and figuratively. Were you able to relate to the book? How and why? Do you feel Bernadette’s disappearance was unique, or do all women, in a sense, disappear into motherhood and marriage? I could relate a lot to the book. It’s easy to feel sometimes that your personality and your goals get lost in marriage and family. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the responsibility and stop having yourself as a priority sometimes. I love the service and satisfaction of being a mother but sometimes I even feel guilty just taking time for myself to be happy. I think it’s very easy to let yourself disappear into a marriage and being a mom. I know that for me, when I set aside time for myself, I’m much more relaxed and patient with my children. When I’m giving more of myself than I’m capable of, I blame the stress on my kids which is not true. They deserve to be loved unconditionally and I do that best when I’m happy.