Families are stories – plural. There are many stories in any single family, each one complicating the others even when there is no direct connection. Add adult siblings (plural) and the entanglement of story becomes so complex that it seems almost beyond the comprehension of anyone involved. Yet these are the stories that drive our lives. They’re tied up in a knot that we never have time to untangle.
With the vision of an artist and the precision of a social psychologist, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney teases apart the ties that bind the Plumb family in The Nest. Start with the four siblings at a wedding; Leo, the rake, still married to Stephanie but behaving badly; Bea, the writer, still working on the novel “promised” by her acclaimed collection of short stories; Melody, married to Walter, a mother with twin daughters headed to (expensive) colleges; and Jack, married to his husband Walker, with an antique store whose cash ebbs more than it flows. There’s some money, which the siblings have come to call “The Nest.” But how much? And for who?
Don’t read the jacket flap. Just let yourself get immersed in Sweeney’s funny and poignant story about the power of family stories to tear us apart and bind us together in spite of any plans we might have made. She handles a huge cast of characters quite adroitly; you always know who you’re with and why. There’s lots of humor and way more actual middle-classish stuff than you generally see in fiction. The Plumbs are not inclined to talk about their superpowers (they have none). In fact, they’re often disinclined to tell those in their own family what the hell is going on. This makes it all the more fun for readers.
Sweeney also keeps the tension high, as we hurtle through the pages trying, hoping to find out just what is still in the Nest and whether or not those who need it are going to be able to make use of what is (or is not) there. Money matters to these characters, in much the same may that it might matter to readers. Mortgages and tuitions are more implacable and voracious than any villain.
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest is a delight to read no matter what your inclinations or tastes may be. It’s a page-turner and a complicated but funny character study. It feels refreshingly breezy and honest. It ties some wildly complicated knots and then teases them, if not apart, it at least pulls the strings so they’re a little looser. Money matters to you and it matters to these folks as well. It puts us all on edge. Hold tight. The ties that bind might just forestall the fall.
You can hear my “lightning round” mini-interview with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
Or listen here:
You can hear my long-form, in-depth interview by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
Or listen here: