After hearing a glowing review on NPR praising this witty and charming book, I quickly placed a hold on a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Told primarily through emails, faxes, letters, and transcripts of taped conversations, the novel explores the events leading up to agoraphobic housewife Bernadette Fox’s disappearance. She and her Microsoft bigwig husband promise their gifted daughter Bee that if she gets straight A’s at her prestigious middle school, she can have anything she wants as a graduation gift. Bernadette’s worst nightmare comes true when Bee succeeds and chooses a family trip to Antarctica. She attempts to cope with this sudden obligation to be around (gasp) people; she even hires a virtual assistant in India to make all the vacation preparations! That’s why it is such a shock when Bernadette disappears just before they are due to embark on the trip. Bee compiles these documents looking for clues, hoping against all evidence that she can bring her mom home again.
Semple was a writer for Arrested Development and it shows in this book, in which witty dialogue and over-the-top scenarios abound. Bernadette’s feud with the PTA moms at Bee’s school, most notably with the one who lives next door, is ridiculous and hysterical. Neighbor tresspasses to insist that Bernadette remove some unsightly blackberry vines? Better erect a 5 ft. x 8 ft. billboard telling her to stay off the property, of course! But despite all of the wacky humor, at the heart of this novel is a very touching mother-daughter relationship. Bee will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her mother, and it is her unconditional love and determination that will render you unable to stop reading until you find out how their story ends.
Here are some new books that should tie-in well with Mother’s Day. After reading the reviews, I know I’m looking forward to reading both of these titles.
In Daughters-in-Law, author Joanna Trollope explores how Rachel’s life has changed since her three sons have grown up and married. Once accustomed to being the center of her family, she now finds her position as matriarch slipping away. She also realizes that other women — the daughters-in-law — are now the main focus in her children’s lives and it’s a bit disconcerting. Will she be able to find a way to still preserve the relationships she’s held dear for so long?
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin received a starred review in Library Journal, which declared that it “should be one of this year’s most deserving bestsellers.” Basically, the story concerns a family’s search for their mother, who has gone missing in a crowded Seoul subway station. In probable fashion, the children argue over how best to find her, while her husband returns to their country home in hopes she’ll return there. Meanwhile, each recalls their own memories of her and wonder if they have lived up to her expectations. The book concludes with Mom’s own version of the story, and the reader learns what really happened that day. Sound intriguing? Check it out and have a Happy Mother’s Day!
If the title doesn’t grab you, the story will. In a style similar to Jodi Picoult’s, author Amy Bourret takes a controversial subject and somehow manages to sympathetically portray both sides of the issue in Mothers and Other Liars.
Ruby was only 19 when she discovered an abandoned infant in a trash can at an Oklahoma rest stop. She raises the baby girl as her own. After nine years they have settled into a comfortable and happy life in Sante Fe, New Mexico, with a “family” of very supportive friends. Then one day she happens to read a magazine article about a baby who was unintentionally kidnapped by car-jackers. Ruby realizes that life as she knows it is over. Will she choose to move to Mexico and live a life on the run? Or will she present herself to the authorities and suffer the consequences? Her choice is further complicated by that fact that she is pregnant by her boyfriend of 3 years.
As a Yale Law School graduate who practiced included child advocacy law, author Bourret brings real-life experience to the tale. The courtroom scenes seem particularly dramatic. However, the real kicker comes at the end of the story. Sorry — but you’ll need to read it to find out what happens!
The Iowa Library Association has announced the All Iowa Reads title for 2011 – it’s Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. Be sure to watch the Davenport Public Library newsletter for the announcement of programs and discussions of this book throughout the year.
In 1978, Hope Jones, mother of three, is swept away during a tornado. Her body is never found. Twenty-five years later her children – Larkin, Gaelan and Bonnie – still struggle to understand their loss and to find their place in the world. The sudden death of their father brings them all home again, forcing them to come to terms with their history and each other.
Set on the open plains of southwest Nebraska, the writing and atmosphere evoke the rural Midwest effortlessly – open skies, violent weather, the restrictions and freedoms of small towns. This is a complex story of grief, love and healing with touches of magical realism and characters that you come to care about.