In her debut novel, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney invites us to be a part of the Plumb family, to live and grow with them as they learn that money (or “The Nest” in this case) can’t—and won’t—always fix their problems.
Leo Plumb, the eldest of four siblings, was a successful man. Until he got wasted at an event, took an 18-year-old waitress, Matilda, for a drive in his car (despite the fact that he was married), crashed it, found himself in the hospital/rehab, and left the waitress with an amputated leg, that is.
Leo’s mistakes—current and past—including his drug addiction (even after rehab), shape the Plumb family, both for better and for worse. The Nest was a gift—a large sum of money—left behind for each of the Plumb siblings from their father. It was supposed to be dispersed to each of them when Melody, the youngest, turned 40. But when Beatrice (Bea), Jack, and Melody learn that their sum of money has been used by Leo (with their mother’s permission) to pay off Matilda, all of their dreams go crashing down, so to speak.
With Leo appearing and disappearing throughout the story, the book is really more focused on the other three siblings and their need to learn not to depend on The Nest. That there is more to life than the (yes, large) sum of money that was almost theirs.
Bea must eventually accept that no amount of money could help her write a new novel. Jack has to overcome the fact that his marriage to Walker was maybe just not meant to be and that $200,000 or more could have never fixed their relationship problems. And Melody, despite the fact that maybe her twin girls won’t be going to the most prestigious university for their education in a few years, needs to learn to be open and more easy-going, to listen to her daughters.
Told in third person, Sweeney is creative with her use of jumping from character to character but somehow always remaining on the right track. She kept me wanting to know more, wanting to know what would happen to each character and how their life would pan out. Would each of them end up in a rut? Would one be more successful than the other? Would their relationships all fall apart? Or would they have been better off with their sum from The Nest?
There were a few parts that confused me and left me questioning the author’s motives. What was the significance of Tommy? Why did we briefly get to know his family and then barely hear about them again? Why bring 9/11 into this book? Why did Stephanie have to have her baby on the floor of her living room? And wasn’t it kind of weird that Tommy was the one to help her do it? Why didn’t anyone try to tell Leo about the baby? What happened to Francis in all of this? What was the significance of Nora being gay—was that supposed to make Jack and Melody closer? Or to teach Melody a lesson? And who was Nathan really? And what about this Paul guy that we barely got to know but was apparently in love with Bea all along?
I guess in any good book, much of the story can be left up to the interpretation of the reader. But there were quite a few loose ends that I thought could have been tightened even just a bit.
I didn’t want to put down The Nest, but I was also terrified for the ending, mainly because I couldn’t even fathom how the author would wrap it all up in so few pages. She did, however, and she did a good job at it. I wasn’t disappointed by the ending; it left me feeling happy, and somewhat at peace with and for the Plumb family. The Nest is a feel-good novel that will give you hope and inspiration for overcoming your problems, family or otherwise. It will motivate you to see that there’s more than meets the eye.
(P.S. I got this book for 40% off at Chapters/Indigo, and the deal is still on! The cover is beautiful—trust me, you want this book in your collection).
Let me know what you thought of The Nest in the comments below!