Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Summary: A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems. 

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I picked up this book largely because of the hype associated with. I feel like I was seeing it everywhere—Goodreads, bookstores, Amazon, various random book lists, etc. It gets to the point where as a book reviewer I feel like I’m not representin’ (see the pressure I feel?!)  if I don’t read some of the really popular books, like maybe I’m missing out or purposely omitting them. I have to admit that when a book comes to me this way, it’s often a disappointment. I don’t think I’m high and mighty and so much better than everyone, but I think you’d agree that not all of the books that get all of the hype are worth the hype they’re getting. (I’m looking at you, Twilight!) Some of them are downright awful and you wonder how they ever ended up on the public radar when there are books that are really so much better that don’t get nearly as much publicity.

I believe that this book is firmly in the “not worth the hype they’re getting” category. It wasn’t awful. I mean, there weren’t sparkly vampires running amok, which is always kind of where I draw the line of truly awful, but there were several things I really didn’t like about it. First and foremost, I really didn’t like the characters. From reading the description of the book, it’s not surprising what they turned out to be—selfish, greedy, self-serving, whiny…oh, they delivered. That and so much more. I’m not sure the author intended them to be so unlikeable, but they really were. It was hard to find one to really like. The siblings were especially awful. They were so entitled and ridiculous in an I’m-so-sorry-you’ve-been-planning-to-inherit-all-this-money-because-you’re-a-money-grubber-and-so-you’ve-become-completely-irresponsible-and-greedy-and-downright-nasty-because-of-it kind of way. I mean, really. I know there are people out there like this. I’ve seen people in my extended family become absolutely horrible people over inheritance and what they think they’re owed, and this book just encapsulated that. I think that D’Aprix Sweeney meant for all of this to be tongue and cheek and just kind of funny in a “look at these pathetic adults kind of way,” but I didn’t think it was funny. No. I just thought it was pathetic and that someone should’ve given them a kick in the pants long ago.

The book itself was decently written. I read it quickly, and the story was compelling enough that despite the characters I actually did finish it. It’s one of those books that is kind of a guilty pleasure in that you’re delving into badly behaved adult’s lives and laughing at them because of their ridiculousness. Except I wasn’t laughing. I was just annoyed.

Because I can’t stand it when there are no likeable characters, especially when I feel like they were supposed to be likeable but just fell short, I am giving this book two stars. A book is all about its characters. If that fails, the book flops.

My Rating: 2 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Some bad language and badly behaved adults lead to a soft PG-13 rating. PG-13 from the early 2000’s, not PG-13 now.

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