"Where'd You Go Bernadette?" Book Discussion and Blackberry French Toast Cupcake Recipe

Updated on August 8, 2019
Amanda Leitch profile image

I am a voracious reader who loves to bake and enjoys books from almost every category of fiction, as well as biographies and memoirs.

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Bernadette Fox is the most talented architect no one has ever heard of. After a tragic incident involving the most resourceful house ever built in its time, Bernadette has suffered from massive anxiety and even agoraphobia. Then, her daughter Bee was born with a rare heart condition and almost didn’t survive to her first birthday. Now Bee is fifteen and getting ready to go off to boarding school, and the only thing she wants from her parents is a trip to Antarctica—no major challenge for her Seattle-based Microsoft executive father, but for her mother, that might prove a challenge, especially since there’s also a current war going on with one of the neighbors over a blackberry bush.

Where’d You Go Bernadette explores deep into a daughter’s scavenger hunt for her mother, as well as exposing the challenges of living with anxiety, failure, and the overwhelming demands of life. It’s a hilarious, snarky, witty quest that reveals the importance of creative outlets, and pushing against the current of life to achieve your goals. This book is perfect for anyone who wants a clever laugh, and a bit of encouragement to go create something.

Perfect for fans of

  • Contemporary fiction
  • Teen fiction
  • Mental Health fiction
  • Stories about overcoming mental health issues/anxiety
  • Teen fiction
  • Intelligent wit

Discussion Questions

  1. How did the newest confrontation between Bernadette and Audrey begin with her foot, and then a blackberry bush? Why do you think Audrey was so angry and dramatic?

  2. Why did Bernadette call the other mothers gnats and not get along with them? Why was it so hard to make friends for her, because of the “Seattle freeze”?

  3. How was Bernadette bad with annoyances, but great in a crisis? How could she possibly “plug into this supreme calm” when something truly bad happens, but have such anxiety and trouble with smaller things?

  4. How did Audrey Griffin screaming at Bernadette exacerbate her anxiety, over Antarctica and with people in general? Has someone else’s unkindness ever made you want to hide from all of humanity before? What tactics could help overcome those fears?

  5. Why did Elgin sometimes feel like “a hunted animal, cornered and defenseless” when it came to Bernadette’s rants? What other ways did she make life challenging for him? How did he in turn make their strained relationship worse?

  6. When Bernadette was an architect, things were different, and you could just “go up to the building guy” and talk your way into the necessary permits. How did she go from being such a smooth talker to avoiding practically all human interaction?

  7. What was the Twenty Mile House and how did it affect Bernadette? Whose fault was it? Could you say that Audrey’s house disaster was in some ways a repeat of that catastrophe?

  8. How was Bernadette like her rabbit who had gone feral, “Come at me, even in love, and I’ll scratch the hell out of you”?

  9. What types of things made Bernadette anxious, and what did anxiety make life like for her?

  10. How could Audrey be so blind to her son’s drug use and other short-comings? Why did she always assume it was someone else with the problem? How did she finally snap?

  11. Did Bernadette’s packed bag prove that she was planning to go to Antarctica after all? Do you think it was with her family, or that she had been planning her escape sooner than they realized?

  12. Why did Audrey help Bernadette? What made both women change how they saw each other?

  13. When and why did Bee decide she hated her father? How could she jump to such an extreme after admitting how much she loved him and understood his working too much when she had been at the Christmas concert listening to “O Holy Night”?

  14. Why did Bee’s happiest moment of her life involve playing in a fountain, being called Violet Beauregarde by a mean boy, and her mother’s sarcastic retort?

  15. Where and how did Bee find Bernadette? How had Bernadette gotten where she was and why?

  16. Contrast the similarities and differences between Soo-Lin’s Victims Against Victimhood meetings and Bee’s Youth Group.

  17. Explain the metaphor of ““The penguins that spent most of their time fighting were the ones with no chicks.”

  18. Have you ever been the victim of or witnessed “contractor Kabuki” when the contractor explains the impossibility of the job, you demonstrate remorse, he tells you he can do it, you thank him for doing what he was hired to do in the first place?

  19. Why did Bernadette need to get her wisdom teeth removed after all?

  20. How was Bernadette an ideal candidate for overwintering in the South Pole?

The Recipe

A major issue occurred between Audrey Griffin and Bernadette Fox over some overgrown blackberry bushes that went from one yard to another, causing a huge snowball of negative events and exacerbating Bernadette’s anxiety and agoraphobia. You could almost blame the blackberry bushes for her ultimate disappearance.

Also, Costco cake was served at Microsoft during Costco Day on campus, and the cake caused Bernadette to “get confused and sometimes mistake the place for a marvelous Utopia.”

When Soo-Lin gets pregnant, she said practically the only thing she could keep down was french toast.

To combine these flavors, I created a cupcake recipe for:

Blackberry French Toast Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam Whipped Cream

Blackberry French Toast Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam Whipped Cream

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Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 1/2 (1/4 cup) stick salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp real maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup blackberry jam
  • 1 cup (or about 6-8 oz) fresh blackberries

For the whipped frosting:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp powdered milk or meringue powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp blackberry jam
  • 12 fresh blackberries, for garnish, if desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed. Remove 1/4 cup of the butter-sugar mix, place in a small bowl, and mix in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with a spoon. To the remaining butter-sugar mix in the stand mixer bowl, add the blackberry jam and Greek yogurt. In a separate bowl over a sifter, add flour, baking powder, soda, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and nutmeg and sift to combine.
  2. Gently pour half of the flour into the stand mixer while it runs on low speed. Then add the milk. Add the rest of the flour, followed by the eggs, one at a time, and increase the speed to medium-low. Then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons of real maple syrup. Remove the mixing bowl and drop small half-teaspoons of the set-aside butter-cinnamon mixture across the top of the batter. Fold this in gently with a rubber spatula. Scoop into paper-lined cupcake liners and bake for 18-22 minutes.
  3. For the frosting, pour heavy whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed for three minutes. Stop and add the powdered milk. Whisk for one more minute on the same speed. Stop and add the remaining teaspoon of vanilla and all the powdered sugar very slowly, then turn the mixer on to the lowest speed, and slightly increasing back up to medium-high as the powder is incorporated. Once you have a fluffy whipped topping (it should double to triple its original liquid size), add the jam and mix for one minute only. Then pipe onto cupcakes that have cooled at least 15 minutes. Garnish each cupcake with fresh blackberries, if desired. Refrigerate if not serving immediately, but remove from fridge about an hour before serving.
  4. Makes about one dozen cupcakes.

Blackberry French Toast Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam Whipped Cream

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Rate the Recipe

4 stars from 1 rating of Blackberry French Toast Cupcakes w/Blackberry Whipped Cr

Similar Books

Other books by Maria Semple are Today I Will Be Different (also about a woman struggling with mental health issues and trying to be “normal”), and This One is Mine, about a woman in Hollywood finding happiness in her relationships and her life.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is about a socially awkward young Scottish woman who has suffered some past trauma, does not fit in with normal societal behavior because of her brutal honesty and quirks, and how she still finds a friend and more to life.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson are both real memoirs filled with hilarity, struggles, and wisdom, from a woman who admittedly struggles with manic depression, and uses humor and weirdness to help get her through.

For more contemporary books set in Seattle, you could read Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos, Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Long for This World by Michael Byers, Madison House by Peter Donoghue, or Waxwings by Jonathan Raban.

Notable Quotes

“There’s no way one person can ever know everything about another person.”

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

“I need you to know how hard it is for me sometimes...the banality of life.”

“Without anyone attending to him, he had gone feral. That’s what happened to me, in Seattle. Come at me, even in love, and I’ll scratch the hell out of you.”

“Getting into fights with people makes my heart race. Not getting into fights with people makes my heart race. Even sleeping makes my heart race! I’m lying in bed when the thumping arrives, like a foreign invader. It’s a horrible dark mass...self-organized but completely unknowable, and it enters my body and releases adrenaline. Like a black hole, it sucks in any benign thoughts that might be scrolling across my brain and attaches visceral panic to them. ...I can feel the irrationality and anxiety draining my store of energy like a battery-operated racecar grinding away in the corner. This is energy I will need to get through the next day. But I just lie in bed and watch it burn, and with it any hope for a productive tomorrow...There goes basic human kindness.”

“If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”

“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.”

“I’d rather ruin her with the truth than ruin her with lies.”

“There’s no such thing as revictimization: if we’re revictimized, it’s because we’re allowing ourselves to be victimized and therefore there’s a new abuser, which is our self…”

“We’d pass icebergs floating in the middle of the ocean. They were gigantic, with strange formations carved into them. They were so haunting and majestic you could feel your heart break, but really they’re just chunks of ice and they mean nothing.”

“She was an artist who stopped creating. I should have done everything I could to get her back.”

“When your eyes are softly focused on the horizon for sustained periods, your brain releases endorphins. It’s the same as a runner’s high. These days, we all spend our lives staring at screens twelve inches in front of us. It’s a nice change.”

“The penguins that spent most of their time fighting were the ones with no chicks.”

“Ice. It’s trippy, symphonies frozen, the unconscious come to life, and smacking of color: blue. (Snow is white; ice is blue.)”

“My heart started racing, not the bad kind...like, I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something?If not, please step aside because I’m about to go kick the shit out of life.”

“I make you only one promise, I will move forward.”

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Amanda Leitch

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Naude Lorenzo 

        6 days ago

        That is a beautiful inspiring story and your recipe looks delicious, planning to make it soon. Thanks Amanda

      • Lora Hollings profile image

        Lora Hollings 

        9 days ago

        I really enjoyed your review, Amanda. I love reading stories about people who have special challenges that they have to overcome. The plot sounds very intriguing and I certainly would like to know based on your review (without revealing any spoilers) how this interesting story develops and ends! Your recipe looks wonderful too! I will certainly have to try it although I will substitute nondairy in the ingredients as I'm a vegan and also use coconut nondairy whipping cream which is great tasting but doesn’t have as many calories. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

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