Casebook: A novel
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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.
do him good to live in the room where he’d crashed half his childhood. He’d been happy there. Boop Two was living in her old room with a bunch of animals. She was planning to go up to UC Davis for vet school in a year and then we’d need somebody to look after the place. Our mother had bought the house from Einar Nelson. He’d given her a good price. Hector had become very clean. He woke up early his first day there, a Sunday morning, and scrubbed the whole kitchen with lemon and white vinegar.
out,” Hector said. “Maybe he’s the culprit.” My dad would be the one to fall in love. He walked into walls, pratfalling. He said himself he was the stupider of the two. He didn’t say he was also the better-looking one. Neither of my parents was especially romantic. I remembered the way they said in love, with spin, as if it were pathetic or a joke. My mom saw love as a trap to catch females. “You don’t really believe in that romance stuff, do you?” I’d asked her once, after a Disney princess
house—he knew where it was—and he walked straight up to her front door, carrying a bouquet of roses he’d bought from Vons. By the time he rang the doorbell, Ben had the house staff ready. A maid answered and told him the singer wasn’t there and she wouldn’t be back for a long time. It was true she wasn’t home. She was hiding out in the Chateau Marmont. But then today the stalker drove to her manager’s office and hassled the receptionist. Now he was heading toward his hotel, a low-rent Days Inn on
must have already told him about receiving the first batch. I hadn’t heard their conversation in the restaurant. Cell phones were a problem. She probably scared the bejesus out of him. He must have thought his wife sent that envelope, too. We didn’t sleep for a week of nights. I kept the extension next to me on my bed and felt it vibrate before the ring. “I’m going to ask you again,” she said. “And remember, this is a matter of public record, but I want to hear it from you. Are you
hand, but my hand is always so wobbly I can’t make out my handwriting. And right there, in that first sentence—by focusing, as I always have, on my feelings rather than on the difficulties and pain that I’ve caused and am causing you—I’ve added to the obscenity of what I’ve done. What I find myself muttering and have been muttering to myself for so long is that I’m sorry and that I never meant to hurt you. My connection to you and the small ways that I’ve been able to help you have been so