Published by Ecco
Publication date: March 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Debut, Fiction
The Nest is contemporary-family-behaving-badly fiction—a genre I generally enjoy. Oh, who am I kidding- I like any family behaving badly in fiction! I mean, why not; it’s so much more fun. Sadly, what makes The Nest contemporary is its all-too-realistic theme: people living out their material dreams through credit. In the case of Leo, Jack, Beatrice, and Melody Plumb the credit is a joint trust fund that they’ll inherit when Melody, the youngest, turns 40. That they’ve each already spent the money, either on expensive homes, private schools, start-up companies, or equity loans is not a worry because it’s been carefully invested in stocks and contains more than enough to cover these debts. Right up until the oldest, the ever faithless Leo, got himself into a jam that necessitated paying off a nineteen-year-old woman who was with him in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unbeknownst to the other siblings, their mother, as executor, took it upon herself to pay off this woman with money from what they lovingly call The Nest. With Melody’s birthday coming up in four months reckoning is due and as each of the siblings’ need for the money becomes more clear so too does the likelihood of Leo caring about this debt
In the past, he’d always been able to thrive in this place, the familiar sweet spot of avoidance, keeping a million plates spinning until they all gradually fell and he quickly moved along to something shinier…
Author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney clues the readers into the nature of each of the Plumbs early on by using their father’s thoughts when he set up a trust fund that would pay out all at once but not until his youngest child turned forty:
He suspected if they didn’t get the money all at once, it would become a source of conflict between those who had it and those who didn’t; they wouldn’t be kind to one another. And if anyone was going to need the money earlier in life Leonard imagined it would be Melody. She wasn’t the brightest of the four (that would be Bea), or the most charming (Leo), or the most resourceful (Jack).
Their father’s assessment may be true but Sweeney turns these strengths into weaknesses throughout The Nest. Leo’s charm is self-serving and nothing but trouble for everyone he connects with, Jack’s resourcefulness leads him into dubious business decisions and the bright Bea gets too far into her own head to maintain a career as a writer. And Melody? Well, poor Melody just wants the best for her daughters and her husband’s salary is not going to get them there.
The Nest is a success with fast chapters and ancillary characters that add to the drama without weighing it down. There is a lot of story, but even as events pedal out of control Sweeney keeps a hand on the brake so that things don’t get farcical. Instead, with Manhattan as the backdrop, the reader can sit back and enjoy as the siblings try to wiggle into the lives they want and out of the debt they have. If in the end, they all get what they deserve? So much the better.