Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – A book review

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – A book review

This year does seem to be good to me. But that might have something to do with me reading only books that have been on my TBR forever. And Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was just one of those.

How did it turn out for me? You might have to read my book review to know more.

About Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette book review cover

Book Name: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple

Genre: Fiction – RomanceYoung adult

Characters: Bernadette Fox, Elgin and Bee Branch, Audrey and Kyle Griffin, Soo Lin.

Setting: Seattle, Washington, The USA

Plot Summary of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Bernadette Fox is borderline anti-social and mildly agoraphobic. She is married to a Microsoft tech-wiz Elgin Branch, who is a workaholic and barely present father to their precocious teen daughter, Bee (Bala Krishna).

Bernadette delegates most of her problems to an online concierge Manjula, something Elgin disapproves of and ignores the snotty comments and activities of the her peers from Bee’s private school.

Shortly after Bee persuades them to take a family trip to Antarctica, Bernadette’s life goes into a spin. And she disappears without a trace.

Did Bee find her mother? Is there a happily ever after waiting for them forms the rest of the story in Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Book review of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

The first thing that will strike you when you start reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is that it is wacky and satirical. And that can be a make or break deal for you. You either love it or hate it.

Written mostly in an epistolary and correspondence format, it takes a bit to get used to. Understandably, the characters are so weird and such goofballs. While they may feel they are one dimensional, they work, most of the times.

AND I LOVED THEM ALL. Sure some of the things that happen are not so believable, but I found them HILARIOUS.

The Seattle rants and the “Victims against Victimhood” were particularly entertaining. The digs at the gnats and the private school culture were just perfect. I now have to see the Cate Blanchett starred movie adaptation soon!

I loved how the author spoke about mental illness without making it preachy or judging it and the effect it could have on the family as a whole.

The last few chapters felt a bit rushed and could have been more interesting. But I am gonna ignore that for now.

What worked for me

  • One of the best satirical I have read in the recent times. It had several laugh-out-loud moments and I would reread this book, hopefully.
  • The writing and the characters are zany and over the top, and I love that! Bernadette would be a character that you would love or hate, but she will be unforgettable.
  • I love how the author dealt with mental illness and its effect on oneself and one’s family. And the social stigma attached to it.

What may have been better

  • The last 50 pages turned out kinda less entertaining.
  • The writing style and characters may seem over the top and if you don’t immediately connect to them, you may never.

Content warning

Parent abandonment, Mental illness and attempt to commit to psychiatric hospital.

Bottom line

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is highly entertaining and hilarious. If you have not read it already, you should do it already.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – A book review

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – A book review

What better way to begin a year than a hyped book that recently secured a HBO adaptation deal? Is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett worth all the hype? Read my book review to know more.

About The Vanishing Half

Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett cover

Book Name: The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett

Genre: Fiction – Historical,

Characters: Desiree and Stella Vignes, Jude, Reese, Kennedy, Early

Setting: Mallard, Louisiana, The USA

Plot Summary of The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett follows the lives of the Vignes twins who decide to run away from their small town at sixteen. The identical twins are so light skinned that they could pass as “White”. When the opportunity presents one of them takes it.

Desiree Vignes always wanted to get away from her town, where skin color is all that mattered. But when she returns years later, with a black skinned kid in tow, she was sure she will get away again.

Stella Vignes did get away from their town once and for all. She has a well settled life and a family that will never know her previous life.

Do either of them regret their choices? Is passing as “White” worth losing your identity and past? Can the lives of these identical sisters ever reunite? Read more about them in The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Book review of The Vanishing Half

I am glad The Vanishing Half was one of the first books I read this year as it set such a positive hope for the year. I loved it and would keep recommending it to anyone who would listen.

Set in the fictional town of Mallard, Louisiana, The Vanishing Half deals with several intense themes like race, class, identity, internalized colorism, abuse, melancholy and motherhood. It made me question the narratives about race and caste passed on over generations by our families.

Despite the heavy themes, the author ensures to present a narration that is so gripping I never put it down once until I finished it. This is will be a wonderful pick for your next book club read!

While we might judge Stella for her internalized racism, bigotry and selfish decisions, it is hard not to sympathize with her loneliness and trying to find an identity for her new self.

What worked for me

  • I loved how the author got me introspecting my own prejudice and issues with generations of conditioning about colorism.
  • The Vanishing Half is not a plot oriented book, but it is just the author’s writing style kept me hooked until the end.
  • I loved how each character was well written and had a part to play. From Early to Reese, I enjoyed the male characters as much as the strong female ones.

What may have been better

  • I wish there were a bit more about Reese’s struggle as a trans guy in transition and passing himself as guy for years. I guess his life was not smooth as a trans man in the LGBTQ – drag circle in 1970s too.
  • The second part moved a bit slower than the first. You might find yourself skipping a paragraphs.
  • If you don’t like books with multiple POV, you might wanna watch out. But it did work spectacularly well for me.

Content warning

Racism (internalized and otherwise), Domestic abuse, colorism, running away from home, gender reassignment surgery.

Bottom line

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a must read historical fiction that deals with intense themes like racism, colorism, abuse and melancholy. Catch this hyped book out without hesitation!

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – A book review

Silent Patient, The by Alex Michaelides – A book review

How often do you agree with hype and award winning titles? I had heard so much about The Silent Patient and I was reluctant to pick it up, because I didn’t want another disappointment. But how did it fare on my scale? Read my book of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides to know more.

About the book

Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Book review

Book Name: The Silent Patient

Author: Alex Michaelides

Genre: Fiction – Mystery, Thriller

Characters:  Alicia Berenson, Theo and Kathy Faber, Christian, Professor Lazarus Diomedes, Gabriel and Max Berenson, Elif, Yuri

Setting: London, England, The UK

Plot Summary

Theo Faber, a psychotherapist can’t wait for this chance to prove himself by helping Alicia, the famed silent patient. And to do that, he has begun to work at The Grove where the artist is being treated for a while now.

About six years ago Alicia Berenson, a well known painter was arrested for murdering her husband, Gabriel. Since then she has not uttered a single word. She is suicidal and unresponsive to any sort of communication.

Theo is also fighting his own demons and for his marriage. Will he be able to save Alicia or himself for that matter? Read The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides to find out more.

Book review

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a fast paced murder mystery/thriller. And it is definitely worth its hype. I definitely should be more open to picking hyped books hereon.

While the explosive climax is not novel, I didn’t see it coming. I had several other theories (a few more ingenious than the others ..cough.. cough) of course, but the red herrings worked perfectly. And that says a lot about the author’s ability to weave a web of tangles around it.

I had a few issues with how the “hospital was run” and that Theo’s approach to help Alicia was pretty much unprofessional. There are a few comments about therapy that misleading and harmful, and definitely reduced the credibility factor for me.

What worked for me

  • I didn’t see the classic twist coming at all. And that’s because I was so engrossed in the narration.
  • The short chapters worked well enough to make The Silent Patient a page turner and I couldn’t just stop reading.
  • The red herrings will keep you second guessing and hooked till the end.

What may have been better

  • Theo’s breakthrough treatment was totally unprofessional and kinda lowkey annoying for me. I hated that there were misleading and harmful comments about therapy and therapists.
  • The twist has been done and tested many a times. One of the well known example is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.

Bottom line

If you are quite new to the murder mystery genre and you liked books like Girl on the train or The Woman In The Window by Finn A J, you will love this book. If you’ve read as many whodunnits as I have, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides may not surprise you. But it is still worth a read.

Content warning:

Depression, multiple suicide attempts, Drug abuse, Misleading concepts about therapy, extramarital affair,

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – A book review

Normal People by Sally Rooney – A book review

Have you read a book that makes you an emotional fur ball and then climaxes with an open ending? Do you love or hate such a book? Let us talk about Normal People by Sally Rooney, shall we?

About the book

Normal People By Sally Rooney Book cover

Book Name: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Marienne and Alan, and their mother Denise Sheridan , Connel and Lorrainne

Setting: Ireland

The plot

Normal People begins with Marianne and Connell as teenagers who are from different social backgrounds attending the same school. Connell’s mother works in Marianne’s mansion. Connell is kind of the popular jock at school while Marianne is ostracized and is rather invisible.

They begin a sexual relationship but later puts an end to it, because Connell doesn’t want his friends to know about it. When they enter University, their roles reverse. Now Marianne’s intelligence and wit wins her friends while Connell feels so out of it and gradually slips into depression.

Their on/off romance continues and they lean on each other time and again, whatever their romantic entanglements were then. Did they end up with each other forms the rest of Normal People by Sally Rooney.

My initial thoughts

As I was saying earlier, Normal People made an emotional wreck of me. I rarely get affected so much by a book that I had to stop take catch a few breathes while I am reading. This book did that to me.

The plot as such is not anything that we have not read earlier nor very intriguing. But it is the writing and characters that made me come back for more, repeatedly. The protagonists felt so real that made me reach out to an old time friend, just to ask if they were doing fine. We all were normal people, once.

Flawed characters that are deep and emotionally broken? Sign me up. Her penchant towards self destruction and his gradual slipping into depression hurt me viscerally.

The only issue I had was not being able to understand why Marienne’s family hated her so much or some kind of background about it. Every time she felt unworthy and mistook abuse as love based on her family, especially the men, my heart broke.

I loved the social commentary parts in the book as much as inner thoughts of the characters.

What worked for me

  • CHARACTERS. Such deep, flawed and real characters.
  • I love plot-less plots, if you get what I mean. Character and angst driven plots are the best and Rooney did a great job at that.
  • This might be a make or break thing, but for me, the open ending seemed like a perfect finish to Normal People.

What may have been better

  • I wanted to know more about Marienne’s family and their treatment towards her. How and why would they?
  • Some readers may have an issue with the style of Rooney’s writing. Trust me you will get used to it in a bit.

Bottom line

If you are interested to read a character driven plot that will affect you emotionally, Normal People should be your pick. Normal People by Sally Rooney deserves all the praise and accolades it has been getting. I am definitely reading more from Rooney in future.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – A book review

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World – A book review

Have you ever thought about what happens to a person after their death? Do they go to heaven or hell? Or you believe that the body function stops and that is the end of it? Explore Elif Shafak’s version of post death in 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World with me, won’t you?

About 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

Book Name: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

Author: Elif Shafak

Genre: Fiction – Drama

Characters: Tequila Leila, Sabotage Sinan, Nostalgia Nalan, Jameelah, Zaynab122 and Hollywood Humeyra

Setting: Istanbul, Turkey

Plot Summary of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

The book begins with the death of the protagonist Leila and we walk through her life during the last few minutes of her consciousness. With her body disposed in a dumpster dismissively, her mind wanders through her recollections of her childhood, her family disowning her and finding her own set of friends and finally her murder. 

Along the journey we are taken on a ride to visit a patriarch family that has grown more and more orthodox while struggling with a child with Down syndrome and the pressure that had on a smart young girl with two mothers who would not speak against their devout father. 

We also see glimpses of the streets from the forbidden parts of the city, that we are encouraged to look away from where our protagonist meets her beloved friends who turn out to be ‘her family’. 

When Leila’s body is finally buried in a cemetery for the “companionless”, the friends take it upon themselves to help her rest in peace. Did they succeed in getting their friend the end she deserved form the rest of the story in 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. 

Book review of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

This is just more than a story of a dead sex worker and her friends. It is a tale of the minorities – the “wayward” women, the queers, the physically different of Istanbul and anyone who wouldn’t fit the norms of a “society”. It is also a tale of friendship and how family is about whom you choose to be with. 

I was not happy with the author’s The Forty rules of love and I was reluctant to pick this one. 

But I liked the author’s writing style – well, the part one. I loved the part one about the city and its rich history and culture. But the second part was slow and dragging and I actually had to skim. The distinction in the writing and narrative style felt too different between the two parts made was too glaring to ignore.

Things that worked for me

  • I liked the non linear narrative and that kept me on my toes. 
  • I loved knowing about Istanbul via its history and politics, and through the lives of these friends. 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • I wish there was a smooth transition between both the parts.
  • Even though I felt the friends set a bit of cliche but I liked their dynamic. 


If you are a fan of Elif Shafak or The Forty rules of love, you will love the book. For others, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World would be a great choice if you want to read about richly woven historical tale about the minorities in Istanbul. 

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