When Bee's mom disappears, the super-smart middle-schooler gathers up all the pieces (emails, faxes, correspondence, a magazine article, police police reports, and more) in an attempt to determine what really happened. So, what really happened? Her mother Bernadette's artistic frustration, amplified by a chain of chance encounters and epic irritations, boils over in a series of cacophonous misunderstandings - all before the book begins. Once Bee's on the case, it gets even more mysterious and strange when Bernadette is found, then lost again.
The darkly funny novel is told through disjointed bits of writing - since it's made up of all the information Bee has gathered. Some of the sources are wildly untrustworthy, and everybody's got their own prejudices and biases. Your perception of Bernadette shifts as you uncover more and more of her illustrious past and unrealized potential. Bee is a heartbreaking conduit for the story; she's a kid who really just wants her mom back.
I loved the digging-through-the-files way the story unfolds, and I adored the crazy, vindictive characters involved. The city of Seattle is practically a character, too, and the eccentricities of the nerd micro-culture at Microsoft Corporation are well featured. While I'd like to say the story's a bit improbable, I know that truth is often stranger than fiction ... and it's probably not all that improbable.