Hardcover, 336 pages
My Thoughts:From the acclaimed and award-winning author of Anywhere But Here and My Hollywood, a powerful new novel about a young boy’s quest to uncover the mysteries of his unraveling family. What he discovers turns out to be what he least wants to know: the inner workings of his parents’ lives. And even then he can’t stop searching.Miles Adler-Hart starts eavesdropping to find out what his mother is planning for his life. When he learns instead that his parents are separating, his investigation deepens, and he enlists his best friend, Hector, to help. Both boys are in thrall to Miles’s unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is “pretty for a mathematician.” They rifle through her dresser drawers, bug her telephone lines, and strip-mine her computer, only to find that all clues lead them to her bedroom, and put them on the trail of a mysterious stranger from Washington, D.C.Their amateur detective work starts innocently but quickly takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family’s well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil and concoct modes of revenge on their villains that are both hilarious and naïve. Eventually, haltingly, they learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.Casebook brilliantly reveals an American family both coming apart at the seams and, simultaneously, miraculously reconstituting itself to sustain its members through their ultimate trial. Mona Simpson, once again, demonstrates her stunning mastery, giving us a boy hero for our times whose story remains with us long after the novel is over.
In Casebook by Mona Simpson a young amateur sleuth hears more than he bargained for which eventually leads to an expanded investigation and results in some hard earned lessons and maturity. Highly Recommended
When Miles Adler-Hart was 12 he originally began eavesdropping on his parents in a vain attempt to discover any plans they might have for his futures. Instead of talking about him, Miles discovers that their relationship is in trouble and they are getting divorced. After the divorce Miles' mother, Irene, introduces him to her boyfriend, Eli. With the help of his friend, Hector, Miles increases his surveillance on his mom and this questionable new man. Miles and Hector eventually befriend a PI to help in their investigation.
Miles says of Eli: "It was odd story. Like the brother. A lot of Eli’s life seemed weird. Sad, too. I felt that even then. But sad in a way that had no poignancy. More like a disease I hoped wasn’t contagious."
Simpson follows her teenage protagonist Miles from age 12 to post high school, with most of the novel centered around Miles to about age 15. This novel manages to transcend the usual teenage novel full of angst associated with a broken family and the ensuing financial stress it causes by focusing on the mysterious relationship between Irene and Eli as seen through the eyes and ears of a sometimes clueless, sometimes insightful Miles and Hector. There is also a dose of humor in Miles story through some of his schemes and antics, along with the poignancy of an alienated teen during a tragic time in his life.
The novel is set up as an account after the fact, with a present day Miles and Hector as successful comic book authors, with footnotes added later with comments on what is written. This is a coming-of -age novel with a mystery entwined in the story. Simpson does a wonderful job capturing Miles thoughts for his age while allowing Irene's personal struggles to remain somewhat aloof and beyond Miles' ability to comprehend.
In many ways Simpson's account is a somewhat sanitized picture of what divorce means to many women and children. While there is definitely emotional strain, the devastating blow that many experience emotionally and financially isn't pictured quite as insidious here as the reality is for many.
The quality of Simpson's writing and her ability to really allow us to connect with her teenage protagonist help to elevate Casebook up from just-another-coming-of-age-story to a novel with a mystery to unravel while we gain insight into all of the characters.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.