Mona Simpson came on the literary scene with her novel Anywhere But Here almost 30 years ago. This graduate of UCLA who still teaches creative writing there has had a sparkling career as the author of six novels and an interesting family life. When Ms. Simpson was young her parents divorced and she lost track of her father and later learned that she had a biological brother, whom she finally met when she was 25. That brother was Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. One other twist: Mona Simpson’s ex-husband named a character after her for the television program for which he writes, The Simpsons.
Anywhere But Here is a highly original novel with two outstanding characters. Mother Adele and her daughter Ann, the narrator of the story, are fleeing small town Wisconsin life to go to California, where they hope Ann will break into Hollywood. The eccentric, manipulative and charming Adele may not be a realist and may be the bane of Ann’s life, but their relationship is solid and they share a deep love.
Ms. Simpson takes an autobiographical inspiration for her next novel, The Lost Father. A medical student obsessively tries to track the father who left her and in the process spends all her money on an ineffective detective, loses her friends and harms her school work.
Simpson’s next book provides more humor, but is just as deep. My Hollywood is about a woman who hires a nanny to care for her child while she strives for success as a musician. The nanny not only stabilizes the family with order and love, but the story itself is a pointed look at motherly love and who provides it.
The Casebook, the most recent Simpson novel, received high praise from reviewers. When 16-year-old Miles finds out that his divorced mother has a new boyfriend he worries about his nice life with his mom and does what any teen would do—he hires a detective to investigate the beau. This wonderful coming of age book is another exploration of a mother/child relationship.