When I first read the book jacket synopsis of Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, I couldn’t wait to start reading because it reminded me of Emma Straub’s The Vacationers which I absolutely adored. However, I’ve come away from this novel with rather mixed feelings. For me, this novel as a bit like watching a reality TV show. Even though I struggled to empathize with and truly invest in the characters, I felt compelled to keep reading to see what happened, regardless of how appalled I was by the selfishness exhibited by each Plumb.
In this fictional expose of an upperclass family, The Nest explores the lives of the Plumb siblings (Melody, Bea, Jack, and Leo) who are months away from tapping into their inheritance which they fondly refer to as “The Nest.” Each of them is counting on a large sum of money to bail them out of various financial predicaments they are facing. However, before the money is dispersed, Leo, the eldest of the siblings, injures a young waitress while driving under the influence and Francie, the matriarch of the family, taps into The Nest to keep her quiet and check Leo into rehab. The remainder of the novel explores the great lengths the Plumbs will go for money and self preservation, even when family is involved.
While the demons that each of the Plumbs have create a realistic level of familial dysfunction, their transgressions and selfish acts makes it hard to rally behind any of the characters. The combination of Melody’s unwillingness to sell her house in order to send her two daughters to college, Jack’s failure to invite his family to his wedding, and Leo’s overall carelessness and selfishness made me feel as though the Plumbs were undeserving of The Nest and my empathy. Furthermore, I found many of the supporting characters to be too underdeveloped to be relevant. For instance, Paul Underwood seemed to play a pretty big role in Leo’s success, yet the Plumbs continuously spoke about him as if he were a nobody and then suddenly changed their tune when Bea started seeing him. I felt similarly about the storyline involving Tommy, Vinny, and Matilda. While I understood how they fit into the story of the Plumb’s, I felt as though their backstories detracted from what was unfolding with Leo, Jack, Melody, and Bea. Moreover, I found the symbolism with The Kiss statue and Vinny and Matilda to be contrived and rather unimportant to the overall storyline and theme of the book.
Despite my critiques of The Nest, I thought the overall takeaway message about how money impacts relationships was very important. It seems as though we always manage to hurt the people we love the most, and Sweeney does an excellent job of capturing that sentiment through her story of the Plumbs. Overall, I thought the book was well written and would definitely recommend it.
Let me know what you thought of The Nest!
3.5 out of 5 stars