‘The Nest’ by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (2016) – 352 pages
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney has captured the secret of the ages in her new novel ‘The Nest’. And what is that secret? It is that a family is nothing more or less than a collection of characters. Your family or my family may have a different set of characters, but characters we all are just the same.
In ‘The Nest’, we have the Plumb family siblings Melody, Jack, Bea, and Leo. Melody is the wifey-wife and mommy-mom; she has husband Walter and two daughters, Nora and Louise, ready for college and all its expense. Jack is the gay guy with his husband Walker and his antique store. Bea is still single and still struggling to be a writer. And Leo is the outrageous one who though pushing fifty still picks up stray young women at weddings and makes out with them in a car parked near the church. Is this a dysfunctional family or just another typical family?
Like any family, they could all use more money. That is where the nest or nest egg comes in. Their father had put aside some money before he died, and now it has grown over the years to be divided equally among the children when the youngest, Melody, turns forty.
The point of view shifts from family member to family member to one or another of their acquaintances throughout the novel, so we get a varied picture of this family living in and around New York. The time is today, nearly fifteen years after 9/11. There is the obligatory 9/11 scene in ‘The Nest’, but life moves on. There is room for plenty of humor in ‘The Nest’.
‘The Nest’ is one of those rarest of novels, both a remarkable literary debut and a best-seller. The author maintains just the correct distance from her characters so that we can see them clearly but also with enough irony and humor so we can fully enjoy them. I must say I too got caught up in the lively energy of the writing in ‘The Nest’, devouring this novel much faster than I normally read novels. The scenes are either hilarious or poignant or both.
There is a prologue scene in ‘The Nest’, and that scene reminded me very much of a famous one in another novel that was also both a literary and best-selling sensation, ‘The World According to Garp’ by John Irving. The scenes in both novels involve a man and a woman in a parked car and a tragic car accident. Both ‘Garp’ and ‘The Nest’ are high-activity and sharply written novels that you just want to keep reading to find out what happens next.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney received at least a million dollar advance for this novel, and Amazon Films has already purchased the movie rights for it. The author is 55 years old, and ‘The Nest’ is her first novel. That is kind of cool too.