“If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”
I wasn’t laughing much this week. I’ve been dog tired and overwhelmed. It’s partly the Pacific Northwest. We don’t have torrential winter or spring. We have a smug wet 24 hours a day. If you step out of your house blindfolded here you would be hard-pressed to tell whether it’s midnight or noon. For this lack of excitement we are smugly grateful. I’ve also been carrying around an impossible, eye-crossing To Do list for my job. I’m happy when I misplace it because then I can’t add anything more to it.
When HH (the handsome husband) handed me this novel after I’d burrowed in under the blankets for the night, I groaned. The kids were all in bed and there was no chocolate left in the house. The day was done. “Go away,” I said to HH. “Nothing personal.” I was hoping for sleep and in the morning a chance to stare glumly at a troublesome chapter from my own manuscript. I’d neglected revising for the last week because of that To Do list. (See above.)
But books are love, and I needed some, so I opened it and read, “The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he says, ‘What’s most important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.’ You’ll notice that wasn’t even the question.” That’s Bee talking, the teenage narrator who spends the entirety of the plot piecing together where her mother, Bernadette, disappeared to and why she left in the first place. Along the way Maria Semple, the author, brilliantly skewers in broad, hiliarous terms the smugness of Seattle, Microsoft, and middle class “parenting”. She reminds us—okay me–that if we don’t create we’ll do damage, often to those dearest to us and most certainly to ourselves. We’ll sink under the jobs we’re glad we have, the ones we write those To Do lists for.
I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette until dawn, slept an hour, then rolled out of bed with an answer to that tricky chapter in my own novel draft. I love this book.