Book Review: Casebook by Mona Simpson

Casebook by Mona Simpson on Mandy Boles Life Between Books Title: Casebook

Author: Mona Simpson

336 pages, Published by Knopf

Mona’s Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Buy The Book: Amazon


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. (Summary provided by Knopf.)

My Thoughts:

I read Casebook by Mona Simpson right before Mother’s Day weekend. This proved to be a mistake because I get way emotional before Mother’s Day every year. As I was reading from the main character Miles’s point of view, I kept thinking of my own boys being in a situation similar to Miles’s and it made my heart hurt.

The book begins with Miles rigging up a walkie talkie to to spy on his parents’ conversations so he can find out if he’ll be allowed to watch survivor or not and he finds out through his spying that his parents are getting a divorce. As the book progresses he uses his spy equipment to listen in on his mother’s conversations with her boyfriend, Eli. Miles eventually becomes obsessed with finding out whether Eli is lying to his mother or not. The book follows Miles over a period of about six years. Casebook is written as though it were a collaboration between Miles and his best friend Hector a while after most of the events in the book took place. It’s mentioned at the beginning that Casebook is the second book Miles and Hector wrote together. The first was a comic book. Towards the end of the book readers get to see excerpts from the comic. I loved that I got to see bits and pieces of the comic mentioned at the beginning of the book. It added an extra layer to the background story.

Mona Simpson does a wonderful job writing from Miles’s POV. It was so realistic that it made me think of my own children. As a mom to two boys, I found myself over analyzing Miles’s thoughts concerning conversations he overhears his mom having on the phone. Do my boys ever hear snippets of my phone conversations, misunderstand/over analyze them, and get their feelings hurt? Let’s hope the anxiety skips a generation and my boys don’t start making nothing into GIANT. HUGE. SOMETHINGS. like I’m prone to do.

Miles’s love for his mother was beautiful. His drive to find out the truth about Eli was captivating. About halfway through the novel Miles “hires” a private investigator to look into Eli’s life. At that point I couldn’t put the book down. Warning: The end is a tearjerker. I may have cried an obscene amount when I finished Casebook.


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FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site. I also received a free copy of Casebook from Knopf c/o TLC Book Tours.





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