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The Nest


The Nest

The Plumb siblings might not seem like four adults you’re likely to fall in love with. Entitled, neurotic and, in the case of the eldest, Leo, borderline sociopathic, in different hands their story could be overwrought and tedious. They’ve grown up in Manhattan with wealthy but inconsistent parents, Francie and Leonard Sr.

The title of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel refers to a nest egg --- a fund that their father started for them before he died, intending only to give them a little extra, and setting it up so that it would not be disbursed until the youngest of the four, Melody, turns 40. “He never imagined that as the fund grew, so too would his children’s tolerance for risk, for doing the one thing Leonard had repeatedly warned them not to do, ever, in any avenue of life, from the time they were old enough to understand: count the chickens before they hatched.”

"From page one, it’s evident that we’re in the capable hands of a juicy storyteller and brilliant wordsmith.... THE NEST is a delicious novel, one to be savored, if only you could stop reading it."

Naturally, that’s what they’ve done, and the nest grows into an amount beyond their wildest dreams. Or at least it had. THE NEST opens with Leo’s spectacularly devastating car accident, resulting in his mother using the fund to erase the embarrasing consequences. Jack, the second son, is married to Walker; he needs his share to bail himself out of secret borrowing against their second home on Long Island. Melody needs hers to pay for her twin daughters’ Ivy League college education and her precious suburban home. Bea, a has-been literary success, is the only one who doesn’t desperately need the money. After Leo gets out of rehab, he promises to make it up to his siblings, begging for a little time, hinting at new projects.

The novel tracks each of these quirky, believable characters as they struggle with their hopes and disappointments. Wonderful, touching side plots unfold gracefully and nestle together like Russian dolls. Bea’s former agent is Leo’s sometime lover, Stephanie. Stephanie’s ground floor tenant is a firefighter who lost his wife in the Twin Towers on 9/11. The “souvenir” he found in the wreckage could save Jack, who runs an antique store, from his financial disaster, since he suspects that Leo won’t come through. Melody’s twin daughters get more than they bargained for from their SAT prep class in Midtown Manhattan. Bea is producing the best writing she’s done in years, but the subject threatens to throw a wrench into everyone’s plans.

From page one, it’s evident that we’re in the capable hands of a juicy storyteller and brilliant wordsmith. Sweeney is adept at describing the nuances of relationships: “His love for her was quiet and constant, familiar and soothing: it was almost its own thing entirely, like a worn rock or a set of worry beads, something he’d pick up and weigh in his palm occasionally, more comforting than dispiriting.” The author is funny, too, as she shows in this gem from a painful scene in which Bea overhears a catty party conversation about herself: “Bea could hear Lena chewing something crunchy, a carrot or a celery stick or a lesser mortal’s finger bone.”

THE NEST is a delicious novel, one to be savored, if only you could stop reading it.

Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on March 21, 2016

The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

  • Publication Date: April 4, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062414224
  • ISBN-13: 9780062414229