Casebook by Mona Simpson

Originally posted 2016-10-15 12:00:14.

Miles Adler-Hart decides to spy on his parents, and he finds out more than he bargained for. By the end of Casebook‘s 336 pages, that’s still about all I got out of it. Mona Simpson dances around concepts such as the dissolution of marriage, privacy, and growing up, and yet she says nothing important regarding any of these topics. Casebook is a meandering series of unrelated plot points that never achieve the poignancy that Simpson thinks they do.

Throughout Casebook, Miles and his bestie, Hector, relentlessly eavesdrop on the very private inner workings of Miles’ mothers personal life. They seemingly do this for years, but it does nothing to move the plot forward. Probably because there is no plot to be forwarded. Miles’ parents split up. Mims (Mile’s nickname for his mommy) starts dating a mysterious nerd from D.C. Miles starts selling soup at school. Miles leaves dogs on people’s lawns. It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe I missed the purpose of all of these random incidents. Maybe Simpson couldn’t come up with a resolution and just prayed that her readers wouldn’t notice. Whatever the case, the numerous loose ends here are frustrating, to say the least.

My guess is that Simpson just took on too much. The novel begins with a blurb from the owners of a comic book store frequented by Miles and Hector. This would lead one to believe that comics will play an important role in Casebook, but in the end, they really don’t. The same can be said of Eli, Mim’s new boyfriend. Eli is shady, and the majority of the novel is dedicated to Miles investigating this shadiness. Again, though, this ultimately serves no purpose. In fact, the quest to resolve the mystery that is Eli mimics the process of reading the novel. Like Miles, we want to know how the inconsistencies come together. Miles never finds out, and sadly, never do we.

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