Bee Branch is an 8th grader at Galer Street School where the students are graded as follows: S–Surpasses excellence, A–Achieves excellence, and W–Working toward excellence. Having achieved straight S's, she reminds her parents of her graduation wish – a family trip to Antarctica. Her mother, Bernadette, in a letter to Manjula, a virtual servant in India, reveals that she is not only agoraphobic but also has social anxiety disorder, and, as we read, we can see why.
Next, we hear from Ollie Ordway, the school's outside consultant, who exhorts the PTA to raise lots and lots of money, and to do that they have to hit up the Mercedes Parents (as opposed to Subaru parents), and we also meet Audrey Griffin, Bernadette's nemesis. Audrey and Bernadette do not start out as BFF's for several reasons involving their children, but when Audrey demands that Bernadette clear out yard-destroying blackberry bushes, neither realizes that now there is nothing to prevent erosion, and then the Seattle weather becomes, well, Seattle weather. The storm, in fact, sends Bernadette's hilltop home crashing down into Audrey's house which was being prepared for a reception for the Mercedes Parents.
It turns out that Bernadette was, for awhile, the most amazing architect in America and winner of several awards. She built a fantastic house next to that of a British TV mogul and one evening, he had a party and visitors parked in her driveway so she had them towed. In retaliation, he had a front man buy her house and then tore it down. Now she is living under the radar in Seattle – a place Bernadette hates. Her particular targets of disgust are IKEA and craftsman houses. (In the interest of full disclosure, this writer loves IKEA, particularly the restaurant, and her lifelong dream is to live in a craftsman house. Still, I love this book.)
Bernadette does indeed disappear. But, since this is not a sad tale, all ends well. Bernadette learns to embrace IKEA and plans to return to Seattle and, since her recent home traveled down the hill, she plans to live in a craftsman house. This wacky, captivating novel was written by a former writer of one of the quirkiest shows ever on TV – Arrested Development. That explains a lot!
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org