by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, 2016
Add this to the list of books that I read because they were popular. There was a lot of buzz about The Nest when it came out, both online and IRL. I remember the moderator for the Book Riot Read Harder discussion group I attended going on about it and when I picked it up from the library, I even had the patron next to me peek at what I had in my arms and affirm what a great read it was. Alas, it was only okay.
The Nest centers around the four siblings of the Plumb family. Youngest daughter Melody is on the cusp of turning 40, a birthday that marks the release of a significant sum of money left to the siblings by their late father who thought it best that the four receive the trust at the same time. Their individual plans for their windfall come crashing down when eldest son Leo is involved in a costly car crash with a young waitress and a subsequent divorce from his wife. Leo is, as you might expect of someone who gets caught in a crash with a woman who is not his wife, not the brightest of the bunch and it’s not surprising that all efforts to get Leo to pay back the trust money loaned to him by their mother are in vain. But neither are the other three siblings paragons of mature adulthood. Eldest daughter Bea is a writer struggling to regain her voice after her initial success. Jack squanders away secrets just as easily as he squanders away his financial drains. And Melody has a serious case of “keeping up with the Joneses.”
The book that this most reminds me of is Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. They both chronicle the ups and downs of a dysfunctional family, each member out to secure what’s best for them and them alone. I loved The Corrections because of how cringingly, painfully real it felt. The Lamberts are people you know, or people in your own family, to whom you are forever bonded, whether for good or for bad. I understand that many people don’t like The Corrections for just this reason. “I know these people in real life. I don’t want to read about them,” said one member of a group I discussed this with years ago. That’s a fair judgment and it leads me to believe that if Franzen’s words were too real for you, The Nest might be more your style.
I don’t say this to insult the book or the author. It’s just that the Plumb family is significantly more comical in their errors and they’re easier pills to swallow. Where you recoil in embarrassment at the Lamberts, you laugh in solidarity at the Plumbs. I just happen to prefer the painfully real to the amusingly deficient. I don’t think The Nest is by any means a terrible book, I’ve just read better elsewhere.