The Paper Trail

Not only do I love reading books, I love listening to them too! I only drive 8 miles to work, so I’m not really killing any time by listening to a book on my commute, but I still do it! It’s far more enjoyable than the radio; not because I don’t like music, but because I don’t like shouty radio personalities and commercials every 2 songs. So this basically means I’m always reading a book and listening to a book at the same time. And since there are times when you can’t read, but you don’t have to devote all of your attention to an activity, why not multi-task and enjoy a book? Taking a walk, cooking dinner, and it sure makes cleaning the bathroom more fun! Okay I’m a giant nerd… I’m really fine with it.

Now about audio books… I have an app for that! Incredibly handy, right there on my phone and almost harder to put down than a visual copy! You are being read to by someone who does all the voices, and sometimes the voice performance of the audio book enhances the story in a way that my reading never could.

So if you are impressed by my super-fast reading abilities, well, I’m double-fisting my books.

Book #2 Where’d You Go, Bernadette. By Maria Semple. Audio Narration by Kathleen Wilhoite.

books2 Rating: 4- Would recommend to a friend.

Synopsis: Bernadette Fox is  well-known in the architectural world for her innovative use of green materials to build a single family home in LA, before anybody was ever talking about “green.” But a set-back in her career, and a promotion for her husband through the ranks at Microsoft, prompt a move to Seattle to be closer to the Microsoft headquarters. Now Bernadette is Mom to 15 year-old Bee, an exceptional student and precocious girl who wants only one thing as a reward for her perfect grades… A family trip to Antarctica!

Bee is the narrator of the story and  gives first-hand perspective of the present as well as recounts of the past based on her memory and things her parents have told her about their pasts. Bee was born with a congenital heart defect and spent her first years in and out of the hospital for surgeries, causing a delay in her growth. But what she lacks in stature, she makes up for in charisma!

The back story is told through a series of email correspondence between other characters. Bernadette to her virtual assistant to book the trip (and handle random tasks that she should be able to do for herself, but cant seem to figure out…), two moms at Bee’s school who like to complain about Bernadette, notices from the school headmaster prompted by events between Bernadette and the moms…  All describing Bernadette’s bizarre behavior leading up to her even more unexplainable disappearance.

My Impressions: First, as an audio book, this was a great one! The reader’s performance was excellent; she was able to alter he voice enough to differentiate major characters, but not in a hokey way that might distract from the story. When I listen to a book I try to decide if I’d rather have read it, but this one was good for listening.

Now about the book itself… There’s just something about Bernadette and Bee. They suck you in to their world, you’re drawn to their quirkiness.  Bee is so excited over just about everything! Bernadette is cynical over just about everything. But they bleed together and balance each other out beautifully. This is what I liked most about the book.

I’m not usually a fan of the letter-writing style of story telling. In other books like this, I’ve felt like it makes for a very disconnected story. But in the case of this book, it works well. Firstly because these people write some really long and detailed emails! Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve ever written an email longer than one short paragraph, but these go on and on. Since I don’t have a hard copy of the book, I can only guess that some of them are at least 10 pages since they were at least 30 minutes of audio in some cases! Not tedious minutes, but if my friends wrote email that long, I’d reconsider our preferred communication. The second reason the letter format is successful is that it helps to move the plot along, connecting past and present and telling two sides of concurrent events; allowing those looking in from the outside to follow the chain of events that lead Bee on the search for her mother. Lastly, the sum of information from the collected correspondence offer explanation for their existence and reveal the secrets behind the story. (Cryptic right? You’ll have to read for yourself to understand fully!)

The thing I liked least about the book was really the thing your are supposed to dislike about the book… The antagonist characters. The people masquerading themselves as helpful, good, caring people.  Your aren’t supposed to like them because they keep giving you reasons not to!

Why you should read it: Strong female personalities, modern technology references, scandal and intrigue, and a trip to Antarctica! What more could you want? This book is a little all over the place, but it’s intentional and I promise you won’t get lost. You’ll just have a hard time putting it down!

2nd book in the bag!

“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that’s because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.”
― Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides

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