The Nest
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The Nest

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A sharp, funny and deftly observed debut about a wonderfully dysfunctional New York family, The Plumbs, and the three grown-up siblings fighting to save the family money pot - the ‘nest’ - as their oldest brother threatens to lose it all. Perfect for fans of The Middlesteins and The Vacationers.

When Leo Plumb drives off drunk from a party in a sports car with a nineteen-year-old waitress in tow, to the moral and legal fallout must be added the horrible inconvenience to his brother and sisters. Leo’s rehab costs have severely depleted ‘the nest’ - the family’s joint trust fund that would have cut them loose from their myriad financial issues. For Melody, a suburban wife and mother, it was to cover both an unwieldy mortgage and her daughters' college tuition. Antiques dealer Jack has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband. And Beatrice, a once-promising short-story writer, can’t seem to finish her overdue novel.

Brought together as never before, the Plumb siblings must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledging the choices they have made in their own lives. Ferociously astute, warm and funny, The Nest is a brilliant debut chronicling the hilarity and savagery of family life.

Review

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel is an entertaining tale that follows the unravelling of the Plumb family’s best-laid plans when the siblings’ long-awaited financial parachute, aka ‘the Nest’, is deployed early and unexpectedly by their mother to deal with the eldest sibling’s latest, and most significant, personal miscalculation. Leo Plumb’s spontaneous interest in a young waitress at a wedding is nothing unusual, but when he drives them both off the road someone has to pay to hush the whole thing, including the seriously injured waitress, up. That someone was never going to be the incorrigibly self-preserving Leo.

Despite this apparent certainty, the other Plumb siblings – Melody (perfectionist mother to almost-university-age twin girls), Jack (antique-shop owner without a knack for business in a post-GFC world; secret mortgage on the summer house/retirement dream he owns with his husband), and Beatrice (boutique literary journal staffer; paused novelist; unlikely apartment owner)  – live in hope that brilliant, wealthy, occasionally lovely Leo has a nest egg of his own stashed somewhere beyond the grasping reach of his objectionable soon-to-be ex-wife. More than that, they hope Leo will do the right thing and pay back their share of the Nest so that their lives don’t fall apart.

D’Aprix Sweeney is a wry observer of human foibles; her characters, with their various quirks, flaws and wavering delusions, are immediately appealing. While a seven-figure publishing deal isn’t necessarily an indication of merit, The Nest has earned its advance praise. It is a deftly crafted story about what happens when expectations are exceeded and dashed, and when family, friends, and money mix. D’Aprix Sweeney’s writing is clever and downright funny, and The Nest will appeal to fans of Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. and Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.


Elke Power is the editor of Readings Monthly.

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