The Calendar Girls theme for this month is “Best Contemporary Novel.” I don’t really understand what people mean when they say Contemporary, so I did a tiny smidge of research. (Seriously, tiny.) I’m going with the boring definition of “set in modern times”. Hope that’s what we’re going for. Otherwise, I’m going to be a VERY odd-duck out.
In fact, maybe I’ll ask twitter. Hang on, be right back.
Since nobody responded within 15 seconds (what are their PROBLEMS????) I’m just going with that definition.
Okay. I’m ready. You ready? I’m ready.
This actually isn’t my favorite genre. I’m always more hesitant to read a book that hasn’t stood the test of time, because I’m not sure it’s going to be awesome. It could just be all hype. And it doesn’t even have the benefit of being about magic, or really cool technology, or the most interesting historical figure of all time to fall back on. So when it’s bad, I usually REALLY don’t like it.
But when it’s good…
Man, when it’s good contemporary is SO EFFING GOOD. It really resonates with readers in a deep way. Earlier this year I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and it just clicked with me the way few books have. It was like she was writing about MY LIFE, only with a little additional social anxiety and a little more fan-fiction. I don’t know, in some ways fantasy or historical fiction just can’t do that.
So sometimes I take a risk and I read a contemporary novel. A lot of times I regret my life choices. But sometimes, it pays off big.
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
I could sing the praises of this book all day, except that I’m not eloquent enough to do so.
Where’d You Go Bernadette is, hands down, the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed LITERALLY out loud through the whole thing. Semple absolutely nailed satire, while also creating characters and situations that were actually funny. It’s a cool combo, and it made for an outrageous and amazing story.
Bernadette Fox was once the world’s most revolutionary architect, but now she’s just an off-beat mom hating her life in preppy Seattle. She hates everything about it, from the weather, to the cookie cutter houses, to the private school moms with a rule for everything. But as they plan for a family trip to Antertica, her bickering with the other moms escalates into a full-on turf war. With Bernadette’s mental health deteriorating, things start to get a more than a little messy, and at the climax of the matter Bernadette goes missing. Her daughter, Bee, is desperate to find her and compiles every document she can find regarding the incidents into a file, which we, the reader, get to enjoy every word of.
This book is full of characters you will love, and characters you will love to hate. It’s a story about redemption, about learning from your mistakes and growing, and about family. Goodreads says it’s “a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world,” which is better than anything I could come up with, so I’ll leave you with that.
I know, this probably doesn’t sound that amazing. The only review I ever wrote for this novel said “Honestly, I don’t think I am a skilled enough book reviewer to do it any justice”, which is still true. I’ll post that full review down below, inadequate though it might be, in a hope that it’ll get you to read what has become one of my favorite books.
I was expecting Where’d You Go, Bernadette to be entertaining, but the sheer brilliance took me completely by surprise. It has me laughing out loud, stomping my feet and yelling, near tears, and reading in the car at red lights. Honestly, I don’t think I am a skilled enough book reviewer to do it any justice.
Calendar Girls Books is a monthly discussion hosted by Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and Melanie at MNBernard Books. To find out more about the Calendar Girls, visit either of their September picks. Here’s Flavia’s and Melanie’s.
Our chat will be on Sunday September 17th at 8 EST.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone else picked, and maybe adding some more books to my TBR!