Review: Casebook

April 23, 2014 book review, Casebook, coming of age, Knopf, Mona Simpson 4

Written By:  Mona Simpson

Published By:  Alfred A. Knopf  Publisher April 15, 2014

Length:  320 pages

Source:  Publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

 From the acclaimed and award-winning author: a beguiling new novel about an eavesdropping boy working to discover the obscure mysteries of his unraveling family. He uncovers instead what he least wants to know: the workings of his parents’ private lives. And even then he can’t stop snooping.

Miles Adler-Rich, helped by his friend Hector, spies and listens in on his separating parents. Both boys are in thrall to Miles’s unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is “pretty for a mathematician.” They rifle through her dresser drawers and strip-mine her computer diary, finding that all leads pull them straight into her bedroom, and into questions about a stranger from Washington, D.C., who weaves in and out of their lives. Their amateur detective work starts innocently but soon takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family’s well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Once burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil, and proceed to concoct hilarious modes of revenge on their villains and eventually, haltingly, learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.

My Thoughts:
Miles and Hector began as twelve year olds and their spying was almost innocent, but Miles learned of his parents problems and then in turn Hector’s parents split too.  Both boys learning of impending divorces and they struggle to understand why parents fall out of love with each other.  Ms. Simpson captures the mind and actions of pre-teen boys. Miles refers to his younger twin sisters as Boop One and Two. He calls his mom “the Mims”.  Miles and Hector are pure and without judgement and will change their point of view.  When Miles mom begins dating a new man, Eli, he is more intrigued.  Not everything lines up in his stories, and he’s got a ton of them.  A problem occurs when Miles actually starts to like Eli, and he’s not sure he wants to know the truth. It might be the end of his mom and Eli. She seems so happy for once.  The sadness of the divorce leaving her. Doesn’t she deserve this? 

The boys grow up, the story follows them closely up to age 15 and more sporadically to high school graduation.  There is much humor…hiring a private detective, leaving stray animals behind in small acts of revenge.  There is also the change in their families.  Parents move on, have other lovers and sometimes re-marry.  This coming of age story is very different than most, and yet it is brutally honest in the telling of two boys’ stories.  

I had a hard time getting into this book, but after about a third into it I was hooked and wanted to know where it was going. There are many characters and nicknames.  Miles and Hector were openly outsiders in their school and among their friends, but were so spunky and fun.  I was amazed at their sleuthing powers!  

I recommend this book to those who enjoy a coming of age tale.  It is not like most.  Told in first person, and it does jump around a bit, but still engaging.  Thanks to TLC Book Tour for the opportunity to read and share Casebook.  Click the link above to see other stops on the tour.  

This is the first book I’ve read by Mona Simpson, but her style and insights were unique and spot on in this book. You can learn more about Mona Simpson here.  

4 Responses to “Review: Casebook”

  1. bermudaonion

    I do like a good coming of age story but it sounds like I’ll have to wait for a time when I’m less distracted to pick this one up.

  2. Ann@booksonthetable

    I’ve been wanting to read this one, but was holding off because I didn’t care for Mona Simpson’s last book (My Hollywood). Casebook sounds much better — maybe more like Anywhere But Here, which I loved.

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