*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? This book ranks alongside other fantastic works like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine that deal with mental health with humor and grace. If your book club hasn’t read Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I highly recommend it as a read that is quirky, humorous, and still carries enough weight to facilitate a great discussion.
The great news is that Where’d You Go, Bernadette was released in 2012, but is still timely and relevant. A lot of book clubs prefer to read books easily found at the library, and, by now, your library should have plenty of copies. You can also buy it in mass market paperback for fairly cheap.
This book is also unique in form. Maria Semple structured the book in an epistolary fashion, but uses modern communication. So, you’ll see lots of email correspondence rather than the usual long-hand letter among the pages.
Maria Semple started her career working for Hollywood as a writer for shows like Mad About You, Arrested Development, and Ellen. Needless to say, she’s got the humor and satire down to an art. Hence, Hollywood’s interest in turning it into a major motion picture. If your book club is looking for the next read, put Where’d You Go, Bernadette on the list.
For Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for your meeting so if your looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of Where’d You Go, Bernadette:
When agoraphobic Bernadette Fox disappears, her daughter, Bee, collects every form of correspondence she can lay her hands on in order to build a paper trail to her mother. The only problem is that Bernadette may not want to be found. She’s been living a life she never wanted—far from the burgeoning career as a genius architect and the loving marriage to one of Microsoft’s leading developers that she once had. Can Bee trace her way to a mother she’s never really known? And, more importantly, can Bernadette allow herself to be found?
For the Where’d You Go, Bernadette recipe:
Where’d You Go, Bernadette has been a hit among many book clubs, so if yours is reading it and you’re looking for food ideas for hosting your book club, I’ve got a great recipe.
Blackberries. Need I say more? Who knew blackberries were such a nuisance? I certainly didn’t, but I live in the Texas panhandle with no blackberries in sight.
Obviously blackberries had to come to play in the recipe for Where’d You Go Bernadette. So, after some brainstorming, I decided to feature cheesecake brownies with blackberry swirl because, well, let me repeat–CHEESECAKE BROWNIES with blackberry swirl.
And these cream cheese swirl brownies do not disappoint. You will be the hero of book club with these.
The recipe appears complicated but it isn’t. There are just several steps and ingredients.
Allow plenty of time for the brownies to cool in the refrigerator. I actually preferred eating them slightly chilled.
Also, be sure to garnish them with extra blackberries, because it really takes them over the TOP!
If your book club is looking for food suggestions for Where’d You Go, Bernadette, look no further! Try not to eat them all before everyone shows up! Enjoy!
Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with Blackberries:
Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with Blackberries
For the brownie layer:
- ½ cup butter
- 4 ounces dark chocolate bits
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
For the cheesecake layer:
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 large egg room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the blackberry swirl:
- 6 ounces blackberries plus more whole berries for garnish
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- Combine berries, sugar, and water in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, breaking down the blackberries with a spoon as they cook.
- Strain the broken-down blackberries from the liquid.
- Cook the liquid 2 minutes more to thicken the puree.
- Set aside and allow to cool.
- Melt the butter with the dark chocolate bits in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments. Mix well and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar to the mixture and incorporate.
- Add the two eggs and vanilla. Stir until well blended.
- Slowly add in flour and mix well.
- Pour the brownie layer into a 8 x 8 baking dish that has been lined with parchment.
- Beat the room temperature cream cheese with sugar using a blender. Mix until creamed (2-3 minutes).
- Add in the egg and mix until just incorporated.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture on top of the brownie layer and gently spread to the edges.
- Using a window pattern (3 first row, 2 second row, 3 third row, etc.), drop the blackberry puree in dollops onto the cheesecake layer.
- With a knife or toothpick, begin swirling the blackberry puree into the cheesecake layer by dragging from one dollop to the next.
- Refrain from over mixing.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (or with a few cheesecake crumbs).
- Cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.
- Slice with a very sharp knife.
- Garnish with more blackberries.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- What did you think of Maria Semple’s unique story form for Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Did you enjoy how she used various forms of communication, much like we encounter in our everyday lives? Why or why not?
- It is revealed around the mid-point of the book that Bernadette suffered from many tragedies (miscarriages, loss of her art, Bee’s illness). Did you believe her actions were a result of these tragedies or did you think she was outrageous and selfish at her core?
- Most of the characters in the book were extreme in one way or another and the author uses this to bring humor to the book. However, in their extreme behavior the reader also finds commonality with the character. Which character did you realize you had most in common with or what event was similar to one you’ve experienced before?
- There were several characters that made surprising choices. Talk about how Soo-Lin, Audrey, Elgie, Bernadette, and any other character surprised you.
- Bernadette judges the other moms at Galer Street School. She, too, is judged. In the end, a Galer gnat comes to her rescue. How do you think this speaks to the way we prejudge and group people who are different than us or frustrate us? Do you think that if we can connect on a personal level with someone our prejudices fall away or will we always carry them? In the end, do you think Bernadette has relinquished her prejudices or not.
- Paul Jellinek tells Bernadette, “If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” If you are a creative, talk about how this is true for you. If you don’t have a creative outlet, do you become destructive to yourself and others like Bernadette?
- This book centers on the theme of finding Bernadette, literally and figuratively. How do you think we lose ourselves along the way to both good and bad things? What in Bernadette’s life do you think really caused her to morph into someone she wasn’t? Was it motherhood, the loss of work, the move to Seattle, the space between her and Elgie? What similar things in your own life have caused a drift between who you are and how you live?
- Why do you think Elgie was unfaithful to Bernadette? Do you think that in her finding her will to create again, she will ultimately be able to reconcile with Elgie? In what ways do you think they meet each other’s needs and in what ways do they fail?
- What did you think of Bernadette and Bee’s relationship? Discuss how it mirrors or diverges from your own mother/daughter experience.
- Talk about your favorite unique part of this book. For example, the backdrop of Microsoft and TED talks or Antarctica and marine science or even Galer Street School. What about Soo-Lin’s Victims Against Victimhood or the Twenty Mile House? Discuss.
Have you read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? What was your favorite part of the book? Did you enjoy the style of this book?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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Titles by Maria Semple that you should check out!