For whatever reason, when I talked about this book last time, it had been months after I read it, and I could've done better. I'm not sure that I'll fix that now, but you never know . . .
First thing you've got to know about this book is that it's funny. Flat out funny. Some of it may not come across that way when you read it, actually, I think it'd be pretty easy to think this is a serious novel about a disturbed or tragic woman. But you'd be wrong to think that (and probably wouldn't like the book at all).
Sure, it's clear that something went wrong with Bernadette in the past, and that she's still dealing (or, better, not dealing) with it. But that doesn't stop things from being hilarious as she struggles with leaving the house, fighting with the neighbor ladies/moms from school.
Her daughter, Bee, is great. She's a tribute to brainy-daughters everywhere -- her understanding of and devotion to her mom is what humanizes Bernadette. After her mother goes missing, she compiles emails, articles, and other documents from a variety of sources to explain the last few months and put everything into context. I wasn't sure this aspect of it would translate into audiobook -- or be understandable. It was perfect. More on that in a moment.
The story is compelling, heartwarming, and funny (more funny the second time around, it turns out). It's one of my favorite books from the last few years. Either version is well worth the time.
What made me give this a higher rating this time? Well, I had a clearer idea about the whole thing and could just enjoy the ride. But mostly, it was Kathleen Wilhoite (and boy did I ever feel stupid for not recognizing her voice once I googled the name). The accents, the voices, the emotions, the mirth -- the heart and soul -- she put into her performance blew me away and made the whole thing more compelling than Semple did (which is saying something). Again, that she was able to take the strange format of the book and make it easy to track with the various "sources" Bee used. Really, just a great audio performance.