Wednesday, September 24, 2014


This is what is known as an epistolary novel, but such an adjective sounds way too serious for this book.  It’s a manic whirlwind of hilarious emails, blog posts, letters, teenage musings, transcripts of conversations, medical bills, police reports—you name it.  Bernadette is a former Los Angeles architect who specialized in the use of local building materials.  Now she’s in Seattle—a city she detests and mercilessly skewers—and has abandoned her career for reasons to be revealed later in the book.  Her husband Elgin is a rising star at Microsoft, heading up Bill Gates’ favorite project.  Their daughter Bee has requested a trip to Antarctica as a reward for her topnotch academic performance.  When something seems too good to be true, like this perfect family or a virtual assistant who charges 75 cents an hour, trouble must be lurking just around the corner.  Then when nextdoor neighbor Audrey Griffin demands that Bernadette cut back her infringing blackberry vines, Bernadette complies, but a domino effect of chaos and hilarity ensues.  Audrey is so preoccupied with making the perfect impression that she’s oblivious to her son’s misdeeds. Bernadette, on the other hand, is borderline reclusive and delightfully wacky.  She is the enigmatic force that drives this story, and we finally get a close-up glimpse of her when we learn the details of her architectural accomplishments.  Her family’s wheels come off when Elgin becomes a little too close to his administrative assistant and begins questioning whether Bernadette’s antics are an indication of a mental breakdown.  Common sense is apparently not his forte, nor Bernadette’s either, for that matter, and thus Bee, wise beyond her years, has to step in to restore order.

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