Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 225
The novel at first seems to be a mystery about the disappearance of Bernadette. Both her daughter, Bee, and the reader soon learn, however, that things are not always what they seem. The mystery is finally solved, with Bernadette found alive and well, more or less. With her physical wellbeing intact, she and her daughter have had a crash course in loyalty and betrayal.
Bee must also learn that parents are all too human, and she learns to identify the signs of a midlife crisis. Her father, who is vain and susceptible to manipulation, cheats on his wife with a woman who utterly lacks empathy. Bee also must come to terms with her mother's trust issues and, once Bernadette is located, accept the reasons she could disclose her whereabouts to a friend but not to her own daughter.
One intriguing part of the plot is the family's planned trip to Antarctica. While it is a physical destination, where Bernadette finds safety and finally extends herself beyond her home, it serves as a utopian ideal destination or more abstractly as a symbol of Bee's hope and of her mother's ability to leave the prison-like home that kept her so unhappy. The novel shows that adults are capable of change and that building friendships—not just relationships with romantic partners—is a crucial component of adult life.
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