Sometimes, I need a break from serious books that make me think too much and I just need to focus on something light and fun. In the past, I would always run to Jacqueline Susann. In fact, one of my favorite “trashy” novels is The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann. I died while reading it, it was so dramatic and sexual and just oh, so fun! But, right now, I wanted something new and closer to home and I came upon the highly publicized The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.
So, this book got a lot of publicity both online with reviews and I’m assuming ad buys, but also because the 54 year old author’s debut novel had a bidding war by several publishers. Apparently, people really do want to read about siblings squabbling over a trust fund and publishers are willing to pay top dollar for it. To my delight and surprise, this book was a lot different than I thought it would be and very enjoyable! So, let’s get started.
The premise of the book is about four adult siblings, the Plumbs, who are fighting over a trust fund they’re all counting on to bail them out of their financial and personal disasters. The book starts with the very inebriated and married older Plumb sibling, Leo, driving off with a 19-year-old waitress and getting into a horrible accident. The 19-year-old illegal immigrant, Matilda Rodriguez, ends up losing her foot in the accident and in an effort to cover up everything that happened, Leo’s mother uses “The Nest” (as the siblings so affectionally call their trust fund), to cover up the mess. What then ensues is a mess of frustrated siblings grappling with their self-inflicted mistakes and how a trust fund is not necessarily the best safety net, but in fact, family might just be the best safety net.
The book is entertaining and gives a good perspective into understanding how people end up in the situations that they end up in and understanding the dynamic between siblings. How is it that siblings that can look alike and even have similar characteristics, but be so different? How does a trust fund, that was supposed to be a backup plan, become the only plan? How does a family put silly squabbles aside and become an actual family?
While the book is fun and shows the flaws of each character, we also see the strengths of each character and how they step up during certain situations. Sometimes a disaster, like Leo’s car accident, can bring out the best in people (not necessarily Leo though, his character is left the same as it was in the beginning of the book). Also, I read a lot of reviews about this book that condescendingly stated how the book had a tidy finish, as if that was a bad thing, but what I found the most interesting is that the book ended with a modern finish, not necessarily tidy. It might be that I read a lot of older books and not a lot of modern, new literature, but the ending was literally very modern and liberal. A woman happily becomes a single mother without a man to help her. A married gay man has a divorce and becomes happier than he was married. Leo disappears suddenly and we never hear from him again. Those are just some tidbits of how modern the novel is in regards to it’s characters and endings. There’s isn’t so much a tidiness as there is an acceptance of how things change and how characters can be OK with that change, even if it isn’t a stereotypical ending with a happy couple with a new baby and a loving family.
The best part about the book is the painstakingly real descriptions of different parts of NYC. I haven’t lived in NYC in a long time, but the details surrounding each location that the siblings meet or work was so detailed that I remembered all of those locations with such a fierce memory. The Oyster Bar in Grand Central. Strawberry Fields in Central Park. Even the yuppy publishing party in the way too put together apartment that Bea Plumb attends all rang true. It’s a very nice skill that Sweeney has to allow the readers to be transported to NYC even when we are far away, like say…Miami, FL.
So, would I recommend this book? Yes, I would! It’s a very quick and fun read – perfect for the beach or the pool. Also, it helps people to remember that family is not perfect, but it’s still family and that has to mean something. Another thing it helps people to remember is that there is not one way out of a situation, like with a trust fund or with one particular person, we can find the resources to help ourselves through different means, which is another valuable lesson.
Now, let’s go get some oysters.