Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Fiction Review: The Nest

As I scrambled to read books on my shelf previously given as gifts before I got more book gifts for Christmas, The Nest by Cynthia D-Aprix Sweeney was high on my list. I finally read this family novel that my husband gave me (birthday? Mother's Day?) that was critically acclaimed and on many Best of lists when it was released in 2016. Though I wasn't sure I'd like it at first, this dysfunctional yet likable family won me over, and I enjoyed reading it.

In the Prologue, the adult Plumb siblings are attending a family wedding when disaster strikes. Oldest brother Leo does something incredibly irresponsible and stupid, as he often does, and a tragedy occurs. The four siblings have always counted on the Nest, their pet term for a nest egg their father left them when he died many years ago. The money has been held in a trust, growing steadily, for the four of them to split when the youngest, Melody, turns 40. Each of them is counting on that sudden influx of money in the next year for different reasons. Melody and her husband plan to use it for their twin girls' college education, as they approach their senior year in high school. Melody has worked very hard to make ends meet, living in a modest but beautiful home in a good neighborhood. Jack, the younger brother, is a gay man married to his partner, Walker, and running an antique shop. But Jack has a shameful secret: the couple lives beyond their means, and Jack has secretly taken out a second mortgage to pay for their lifestyle and upgrades to his shop. Walker has no idea, but Jack plans to pay off the huge debt with the Nest so he'll never know. Older sister, Beatrice, is managing OK financially, but she feels stuck, working for a tiny literary magazine and unable to write the novel she was supposed to write, after some early success with short stories. The other three siblings are stunned when their aloof mother announces at lunch one day that she used almost all of the Nest to make Leo's "problem go away." Now what will they all do?

When I started this intricate family drama, I thought, "Oh, no, another story about wealthy upper class New Yorkers." It's just not usually my favorite kind of set-up. But I soon realized that the Plumbs may have acted that way at times, but in fact, none of them was actually wealthy, and they were far more relatable than I first anticipated (college tuition? mortgage and debt? Check and check). And, while Leo is a bit of a jerk, the other three siblings--and the other people in their lives--are interesting, warm characters with plenty of depth. The more I read, the more I delved down into those layers of complexity and got to know (and like) them better. The author also includes plenty of unexpected plot twists. Not everything works out perfectly for every character, but the novel is brought to a satisfying conclusion. I ended up thoroughly engrossed in the Plumb siblings' lives and enjoyed the time I spent with this messed-up, lovable family.

353 pages, Ecco (imprint of HarperCollins)

Something to look forward to! Emily V. Gordon, screenwriter of The Big Sick is adapting The Nest as a movie for Amazon (no word yet on when it will be finished).

Listen to a sample of the audio book here, narrated by Mia Barron and/or download it from Audible.

You can purchase The Nest from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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Or you can order The Nest from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. It's nice to like the characters more as you get to know them and not less! Glad you liked this one.

    1. Yes, it's always good when I am determined not to like a book and end up loving it!

  2. I've heard about this book. Not sure if its for me or not, but I'll keep it at the back of my mind.

    1. A good family drama, Davida. Some reviewers called it "hilarious" but I would describe it more as witty and amusing.