Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

whereBook – Bernadette is married to a brilliant man, Elgin, who works for Microsoft, and her daughter Bee is a top student at a private middle school. When Bee asks to go to the Antarctica as a reward for her grades, Bernadette is thrown into a tailspin. She has lived a reclusive life in their rundown Seattle home for more than a decade. Using a virtual assistant from India to complete everyday tasks such as shopping and making reservations, Bernadette has tried to avoid mingling with parents from the school and her neighbors. As Bernadette takes increasingly drastic measures to avoid the trip, Elgin becomes more worried and then, Bernadette suddenly disappears. Bee is determined to solve the mystery and, in the process, discovers that people aren’t always who they seem to be. The story is told in a series of emails and correspondence from Bernadette, Elgin, Bee and various friends, doctors and co-workers. This book is fun to read and often laugh-out-loud funny. Bernadette has a wicked sense of humor, but she’s so vulnerable and lonely that I was rooting for her and hoping for a happy ending. I didn’t want to put this book down and was delighted to give away 20 copies for World Book Night on April 23.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of WonderBookState of Wonder by Ann Patchett starts in Minnesota and sends us on an exotic journey down the Amazon River to the Jungles of Brazil. Pharmacologist Marina Singh receives word that her research partner, Anders Eckman, has died of a mysterious fever and that his body is buried somewhere in the Amazon Jungle. Anders was sent there by their pharmaceutical company to check on the progress of the development of a new fertility drug by Dr. Annick Swenson, because she refuses to respond to the company’s increasingly urgent queries. Marina agrees to go to the Amazon for the sake of Anders’s wife, who has her doubts about his death, and for the company that still needs answers from Dr. Swenson.

Marina arrives in the town of Manaus, where she eventually hooks up with Dr. Swenson. Marina discovers that Dr. Swenson has a hidden agenda regarding the secrecy of her research and the mystery surrounding the death of Dr. Eckman. Fast-paced and beautifully written, the reader will feel the oppressive heat, heaviness and crawly feeling of the jungle.  Definitely a page turner and very thought provoking, especially regarding the issues of science and ethics.  Recommended as a book discussion read. If you enjoy this book you may want to read these:  Intuition by Allegra Goodman, The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre, and other books by Ann Patchett.