Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Casebook," by Mona Simpson

I have read most of Mona Simpson’s novels; she is a gifted author who writes absorbingly. Her newest novel, “Casebook” (Knopf, 2014), follows one of the main themes in her fiction: family members trying to find and/or figure each other out. The story in this novel is a stand-in for those of all the children everywhere who are confused by the lives of their parents and other adults in their lives, and who are trying to puzzle out what adult life is all about. Young teenagers Miles Adler-Hart and his best friend Hector play boy detectives in order to understand Miles’ divorced parents, and his mother’s somewhat mysterious boyfriend, better. They listen to conversations, snoop through possessions and mail, and even enlist an actual private investigator who eventually becomes a friend of the family. There are wrenching revelations and profound betrayal in this story, but there is also great love. Fortunately the love wins out. Besides the focus on the search for knowledge, there are strong and engaging portrayals of a rich variety of characters. Simpson’s novels always remind me of journeys to understanding, jam-packed with adventures, misadventures, and surprises, as well as many human, touching, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes heartwarming moments. The setting in the various communities of Los Angeles serves as another character.

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