CASEBOOK by Mona Simpson

Book Quote:

“The walkie-talkie didn’t work. I could hear my mom but not the other person. I hadn’t thought of that. And in a lot of conversations, most of what she said was mm-hmm. I hadn’t thought of that either. With us, she said a lot. I had to be completely still so she wouldn’t hear noise through the device. Most of the time, I just heard her moving in her room, singing Joni Mitchell songs, off-key. “

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (APR 15, 2014)

Miles Adler-Rich is a precocious teen-ager, very much upset by the changes in his family. His parents have recently divorced and his mother has taken up with a new boyfriend named Eli Lee. Eli says he works for the National Science Foundation and professes to love Miles’s mother, Irene, very much. However, there is something about Eli that seems off to Miles.

Miles, along with his best friend Hector, decide to investigate Eli along with the help of a private investigator named Ben Orion. There are things in Eli’s stories that just don’t add up. Is he really divorced from his wife? He said he had pituitary surgery but has no scars. He came to visit with a dog that he borrowed from a friend. Who borrows a dog? He told Irene that he’d loan her a million dollars and that he’d contribute money to their household. Most importantly, he said he’d marry Irene but in the six years that they’ve been seeing one another, no marriage has occurred. Also, Eli is supposed to live in Washington, D.C. and Miles is sure he saw Eli with a woman and child in Pasadena.

Miles and the Mims, as he calls his mother, are quite close but Miles is prone to snooping, prying, and eavesdropping on her. As he says, “I was a snoop, but a peculiar kind. I only discovered what I most didn’t want to know.” Miles looks in his mother’s drawers, on her computers and opens her mail. He also hot wires her telephone. What he finds out has the power to implode the family. What started out as curiosity has taken on a power of its own.

The novel deals with serious issues of good and evil, right and wrong, and the morally ambiguous. The story is narrated by Miles who appears to be a reliable narrator. Over a period of about eight years, from pre-divorce through the time that the Mims spends with Eli, we see Miles grow and develop into a young man. He complains about his younger twin sisters known as the Boops but we also see him care for them tenderly when his mother is not up to snuff.

Miles is looking for certitude in an uncertain world, a world that is not fair and often cruel. He has gone too far in his mission to know the truth and there is no turning back for him. His choices have been made and he is now living with their outcome. Ms. Simpson has written a very intriguing book, one much better than My Hollywood and one not quite up to Any Way But Here. The book held my interest and the characterizations were excellent. Some of the book was repetitive and could have been edited more stringently. There were parts of the book that appeared like snippets and could have been left out, or else the book could have been made longer and these parts developed. Overall, this is a fine book which I recommend.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 4 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 15, 2014)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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April 15, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: California, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary

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