The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney; published 2016 by HarperCollins Publishers
This book has been getting a ton of attention—just the fact that it has (at this time) over 109,000 reviews on Goodreads says something… whether it’s just good marketing or actually a good story is debatable.
The story is of the Plumb siblings, who have been waiting patiently for their youngest sister, Melody, to turn 40. That’s when their father’s unexpectedly successful trust fund—what they call “the Nest”—is due to be distributed evenly between the four of them. There’s Jack, the antique shop owner who secretly took out a loan against his and his husband’s summer house without telling Walker. Bea, a one-time famous author whose been struggling with writer’s block for years. Leo, a past publishing executive who has made a string of unfortunate business choices and run most of his friends (and his wife) away. And Melody, an overprotective mom who tracks her twin teenage daughters’ movements via an app they call “Stalkerville.”
All four of the Plumbs have literally been banking on this huge sum of cash coming their way, and so they’ve lived rather more luxuriously than they might have otherwise. Jack, Bea, and Melody all badly need the money to make up for poor decisions.
But their high hopes are dashed when Leo seduces a young waitress and gets behind the wheel while high. There’s a crash—the waitress, Matilda’s foot is severed and has to be amputated. The Plumb siblings’ mother unilaterally decides to use the trust fund to pay for the settlement, making Matilda a millionaire and the siblings furious at Leo. He promises to pay them back, but the rest of the story is spent with Leo avoiding his siblings, playing emotional games with his ex-lover, and trying (and failing) to rekindle old work relationships.
As you can probably guess… I wasn’t a fan. Here’s what I’ll say about the book: It kept me just entertained enough to keep reading. I was just curious enough to want to see if any of the siblings would start making good decisions. And while the ending is satisfying, the characters never really changed.
I have a hard time liking a book in which I can’t find even one character to root for… All of them are selfish and immoral in their own way. This isn’t in itself a bad thing; I’ve liked plenty of selfish and immoral characters. But there is no complexity to the Plumb siblings; they’re just trapped in themselves and the whirlwind of problems they created.
My other chief complaint was about the pacing of the story. Every chapter is told from another character’s point of view, and the author has no problem derailing the plot to take a long, slow stroll down memory lane. We get deep into the weeds of EVERY.SINGLE.CHARACTER’s back story, even minor characters. It’s common for authors to intimately know the details of characters’ pasts; it helps them understand their motivations and desires and learned behaviors. But how much of that usually makes it into the book itself? And how much is necessary for the reader to know? Especially for minor characters…? I had a very hard time sifting through that.
I won’t belabor this review. I know that many people have enjoyed it, so if you did, I’d be curious to hear what you liked about it!