Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

by Lauren Howard

Main Character Anaylis

Bee Branch, the main character and protagonist in Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, is a fifteen year old girl. Bee is the only child of mother Bernadette Fox and father Elgin Branch. When Bee was born, she had a heart problem. She underwent numerous surgeries as a baby. The final surgery was able to correct the problem and in her favor, she never had additional heart problems after that. Bee attend a private school, Galer Street, where she is a near perfect student academically. Bree is graduating from Galer Street and moving on to a boarding school called Cholate. As a present, she suggests the idea that she and her family go on a trip to Antarctica. This, however, plays a very crucial part to the over all plot of the story later on. Bee can be described as a very independent character who "walks to the beat of her own drum".

Bernadette Fox is also considered a very major character in Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, given that the entire story is based on finding her, and her connections, mentally, with other characters form the plot really well. Bernadette, as said before, is Bee Branch's mother, and also married to Elgin Branch. Bernadette is a very strange and, as defined by her peers, "crazy" woman. She also suffers with acrophobia, which can be defined as an extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places. Bernadette, for her part, calls Galer Street parents “gnats,” and treats them just as she describes them. She never interacts with the other parents, and always stays in the car. She can be seen as very introverted.


One of the primary themes running throughout the novel is relationships. The two primary relationships the novel talks about are the relationships of a family and friendships. Friendship is one of the primary types of relationships because Bee is only able to make one true friend, which is Kennedy. Many of the other students at Galer Street are not friends with Bee because their mothers think that Bernadette is strange. Additionally, Bernadette is not able to form friendships at all. All of the other mothers think she is weird and crazy because Bernadette hardly ever leaves the house, and she never volunteers for any of the school activities. In the end, Audrey, another important character, and Bernadette end up forming a friendship. When Audrey realizes that she has misjudged Bernadette, Audrey becomes Bernadette's ally, and starts piecing together pieces of the puzzle.
Family is one of the primary types of relationships because the whole story is rooted in Bee and Bernadette's family life. After Bee's father ends up getting his administrative assistant, Soo-Lin Lee-Segal, pregnant, word comes from the credit card company that Bernadette made charges aboard the ship the family was supposed to take for their trip to Antarctica. So as we can see here, the actions of a broken family spark and trigger the overall act of bernadette leaving in the first place. It shows what the destruction of a family can actually do to each member.

Seattle, Washington is the primary setting in the novel. It is where the main characters, live, work and go to school. Seattle is where Bernadette and Elgin move to from California. This plays an important role in the novel given that it plays a role in describing Brenadette's introvert personality. Bernadette’s hate for Seattle does not stop her from delivering endless remarks about the place. And part of why she resents her new home is because she is out of her element. She fled Los Angeles for reasons the book does not immediately explain. She strikes Seattle residents as a "Microsoft-moneyed snob who really ought to switch to decaf".
Another important setting is Choate. Choate is the boarding school Bernadette attended. It's also the boarding school Bee applies to and is accepted to attend. When Bernadette first goes missing, Bee enrolls in Choate. The Choate administrator ends up sending Bee home from Choate because Bee is having a hard time adjusting to life at Choate.


All in all, I found Where'd You Go, Brenadette? to be a very interesting and unique book. Usually, you find the young teenager to be the introvert who's socially awkward and run away from her problems, having a dislike for everyone around them. In this case, it's the mother. Not the teenager, not the best friend, but the mother. I'm also a fan of how Maria Semple manages to incorporate humor into this book to make it seem more real and relateable, which makes you connect with the characters better.
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