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The story of Bernadette Fox in Where Did You Go Bernadette will resonate with all married women who are taken for granted as just moms and homemakers.
Women can be as talented as men. Or more. They can come up with creativity that can go beyond the normal; and at the same time, be warm, caring, loving souls as well. And yet, once a woman is married, everything about her is measured in terms of how good she is at keeping house; and how good a wife and mother she is.
This is universally true. And for India specifically, there is a whole long list of very different things that are used to measure a woman’s worth.
But let’s not go there. This post isn’t about that. This post is about the story of one talented woman giving everything up, even losing her confidence in her own abilities; dedicating her life to her family, concentrating on being a good mother to her child. A woman who never thought she would find it again in her to face her creativity; and yet, when pushed too far into the corner; she surprises herself (and us) with her ability to persevere, and eventually finds her mojo once again! This story is about her. This post is about the book Where Did You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple.
Meet Bernadette Fox – a uniquely engaging character that keeps you hooked to the story – a free thinking, opinionated mother of a fifteen year-old. As the story progresses, we see that Bernadette is so much more than just a woman with an attitude. We understand she is agoraphobic. We understand she loves her family and can do anything for them, and we also understand that the same love doesn’t necessarily extend to herself.
We understand there is a lot of back story to Bernadette, and at one point, we think we have her all figured out. We think we know now what motivates her and why she is the way she is. And then we turn the page and bam! The backstory is suddenly upon us and that takes us into a whole new world! That is when we understand what is going on, and that is when we completely lose hope.
Then Bernadette disappears.
Now we know there is no coming back from the depths of this misery – not for us, not for Bernadette, not for her family. But then we take a trip. With a fifteen-year old girl and her Dad. And there we see a world we don’t even know exists. And just as we are losing all hope and questioning our faith, we are surprised, yet again, by (by now) our beloved Bernadette!
Where Did You Go Bernadette is an incredible tale of love – love for your child, love for your spouse, love for your work, and love for your creativity. This is also an ingenuous take on the extent to which things can go wrong if we don’t communicate with our partners. And last but not the least, this is a perceptive look at our tendency to ‘fix’ people around us if we find them not adhering to the standards set by society. (I absolutely loved the way the author has portrayed regular, everyday things we can relate to, in a way that leaves a lasting impact.)
But most of all, this story is all about Bernadette Fox. A character we can all relate to. If you love your work, you will relate to her; if you love your family, you will relate to her – and it is this understanding of Bernadette, that has us involved in this superbly histrionic character and her incredulous journey. It is a funny story that makes you take a hard look at yourself and compels you to think.
Utterly heart-wrenching and superbly heart-warming, Bernadette’s story will stay with you for a long, long time after you have turned the last page.
If you’d like to pick up Where Did You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, use our affiliate links: at Flipkart, at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.
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Top image via shutterstock and book cover via Amazon
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With over 200 published stories, Rashmi is a lawyer-turned-writer, who has always given in to the lure of the written word. With three anthologies under her belt, and her blogs and articles on read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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