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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
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...
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I recommend reading Manjiri Indurkar's Origami Aai alongside her memoir to have a fulfilling and enriching experience of telling one's story with grace.
It’s All In Your Head, M famed author Manjiri Indurkar’s debut poetry collection, Origami Aai, is independent and yet an extension of her memoir in which she speaks with utmost grace about all forms of abuses that she has survived. In this book of intriguing and evocative poems, the poet weaves words to form images of the everyday life of her middle-class family, love found and lost, trauma, and healing.
The collection is divided into four segments, beginning with the family, slowly moving towards the world, and finally colliding them together.
We aren’t in mourning, but we are creatures of habit.
So we talk of each one who died of drowning,
and I listen to her stories with the patience
of a chronicler.
– Funereal Stories
When someone accuses you of "too much feminism", what they are really saying is, "I am uncomfortable with you challenging the status quo and disrupting my privilege".
Time and again, there is one phrase that keeps coming up in the social media discourse on feminism. Any guesses?
Ah, no prizes for guessing the infamous “itni bhi feminist” or “too much feminism” phrase, a classic eye-roller for me, and I am sure for many more of my tribe, in the realm of gender equality discussions.
Pray tell me, how can an ideology, a movement be too ‘much’? It’s not salt or the seasoning of your soup where you can go, “Oops, too much salt, only one spoon was required”. Either you stand for what feminism stands for, or you don’t.
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