Book Review: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Family. We love them, we hate them, we don’t have any, or we have too much. There’s television shows, movies, songs, and books about the dysfunctional relationships with our chosen (or not so chosen) loved ones.

We meet Leo Plumb, a 46-year-old man who is unhappy in his marriage and is very much a drug addict. Booze, prescription drugs, you name it.

Credit to Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and publication

But, “The Nest” as the Plumb family endearingly refers to it, is there to catch him when he falls. Or crashes and burns. The Plumb’s inheritance cash fund becomes a huge plot device after Leo crashes his SUV with a nineteen-year-old waitress in the car, gettin’ busy, you know, and cleans out the funds with a flick of the wrist and black ink on a check.

The Plumb’s are made up of four siblings, and each unhappy but content to spend their lives sitting on “The Nest.”

Ah, yes. “The Nest.” The lump sum of money left to the four Plumb siblings as a means to eventually help them with any eventual financial means. That is, they’ll get it after Melody turns 40. That is, they’ll only need it because they’ll already be successful, right?

Wrong.

Sorry, Mr. Plumb.

The second son, Jack, owns an antique shop with his partner Walter, and on the financial front? Isn’t doing so hot. Compared to his sister Beatrice, who acquired a bit of success as a writer, hasn’t been producing anything worth standing on, but continues to live in New York City (the Upper West Side) in an apartment given to her by a past partner, there’s not much of an improvement. Lastly, there’s Melody, an almost forty year old mother of two, who doesn’t make much and is getting ready to send her daughters off to college.

Each sibling leaning on the pile of money in “The Nest,” and Leo uses it on keep quiet money, and to pay off medical and legal fees just shy of Melody’s 40th birthday.

The Plumb siblings have been waiting on this lump of money for years. To the point where their relationships, bluntly put, are strained and complicated.

Despite this, the Plumb family is so very morbid, lost, and all around entertaining that it’s hard not to flip the pages and wonder where Sweeney will bring you next. Do you recognize your own self within Melody? Maybe Jack? Do you see your partner in Leo’s charm and sly wit?

Where do we see ourselves among this family who have now lost their safety net?

The answers were always changing as I read the pages, and scanned the dialogue. This family, who is grappling with themselves, their loved ones, and the world, is all of us.

And that’s what Sweeney does so well in this novel.

Whether or not readers are blessed with an inheritance that is meant to dispel their biggest screw ups, The Nest reminds us that sometimes our dreams can’t save us from the trials of real life. Sometimes, even if we think we can do it, or even know we can, doesn’t mean that we will.

In a multiple POV novel, Sweeney opens up the doors to not only mid-life realizations, but young ones, too. A twin daughter must decide whether or not the safety net of her sister should keep her from making her own decisions.

The Nest has everything from intoxicating fleshed out characters, hilarious anecdotes, accurate real life settings, to smart dialogue and alarmingly likable secondary characters. There’s even angst.

Ultimately, your morals will be questioned, your own inquiries may or may not be answered, but by the end, Sweeney will have assured you that even without a safety net, you have the ability to try. It could lead you to another identity crisis, a new path, or maybe, nothing at all.

It is the real world, after all.

4/5

Brooke Pawling Stennett is a college student pursuing a degree in Multimedia Journalism and Creative Non-Fiction in the old Windy City. She tends to lean toward the obsessive side of the tracks when it comes to books and music. She's an avid concert attendee (or at least she tries to!) and rambler. She'd like to travel the world and write about it, but in the only ways she knows how: sarcastically and full of internet jargon. Her opinions are her best ones, especially if they involve boy-bands and Netflix. . .even though she doesn't even have her own account. You can tweet her at @br_stennett and tell her how ridiculous (and totally great!) her opinions are.