Once and a while, you pick up a book with a gut feeling that you’re going to dislike it before you even read page one. When asked to read The Nest by my book club group, this was my initial reaction. I’m pleasantly surprised that this time, my gut lied.
The Nest follows the Plum family, a formally upper middle class set of four siblings who have all since fallen from grace as they hit middle age. This novel is rife with cheating, lying (both big lies and little white ones), marital strife and even the occasional black market deal. When the eldest of the siblings and all around least moral, Leo, is badly injured in an accident, the family matriarch dips into “The Nest,” a trust fund set aside to be split among the siblings upon the youngest 40th birthday. This provides the central drama for the novel as each sibling has been depending on their cut of the nest for different reasons, and now their portion is significantly diminished.
Reading the summary, I figured this would be something I wouldn’t enjoy. While I adore media about dysfunctional families and relationships, seldom do I enjoy books that involve characters I cannot root for because of their unlikeable ways. This book surprised me in that, while the Plum siblings are all troubled and dramatic, I was still completely enthralled by their stories. Moreover, the secondary characters in this novel and the way they relate to the siblings were refreshing and kept the novel from being bogged down by too much of the same characters/situations over and over.
I started this book, read about 100 pages, put it down and was compelled to start again and finish the entire thing in one sitting. Rarely does that happen for me, and I couldn’t be more surprised this is the novel that did. On a further note, this book provided the most lively book discussion my group has had in ages, as well as the meetings with the highest number of attendees. This is also a novel where it’s easy to imagine it as a film, so my group had a great time discussing who they would cast as the siblings, which also facilitated some interesting discussion on the main characteristics and motivations of characters via who they chose to play them. Though not everyone loved it on the level I did, the numerous characters and “what would you have done” situations in this novel makes it a stellar book club choice for any age range!
Title: The Nest
Author: Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Three descriptors: Character driven, sardonic, bittersweet
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