The Nest: Book summary and reviews of The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Nest

by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney X
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
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Book Summary

A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs' joint trust fund, "The Nest," which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest's value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can't seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they've envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

Published in hardcover & ebook in March 2016. Paperback publishing April 2017

Reading Guide

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Nest:

Did you find that there were secrets that should have been revealed earlier in the story or were kept for selfless or selfish reasons? Have you ever kept any important secrets?
Maybe the secret keeping is the reason why I didn't love this book. I tend to stay away from books with secrets or I end up not liking them. I think it's because my whole life has been a family secret. I believe that my parents will take their ... - booksnob

Did you find yourself leaning toward the pleas or the argument of one sibling in particular, and if so, who, and why?
I found the characters interesting but can't say I liked one over the others. But if I had to choose, I would say Bea. She was the one willing to give up her share to help out her brother and sister who took actions based on their belief they would ... - scottishrose

Do you feel that the bond of family trumps all? Is it possible to rebuild trust once it has been broken? Are there some bonds that can become stronger than those of family?
Obviously not in regard to Leo. For the other three siblings they do grow over time and learn to have real relationships with each other in the end when the money is no longer standing between them. Stephanie and her daughter seem to take the place ... - scottishrose

Do you have a physical remembrance of someone who was close to you? What is it, and why did you keep it?
I have my father's WWII Honor Bus hat, which was given to the veterans when they were taken to D.C. via bus for a military of event. It was important to him, so it's important to me. I felt he was honoring me, singling me out, as I have 4 siblings ... - Cynthia

Do you think Leo ever loved Stephanie? How do you think he would have reacted if he'd found out about their child together?
I think Leo was too self-centered to be capable of real love for Stephanie. He would go through the motions until things got a little difficult, then he would do what he always did, run from responsibility. If she had told him about the child, I ... - scottishrose

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [A] generous, absorbing novel...Sweeney's endearing characters are quirky New Yorkers all... [a] lively novel. A fetching debut from an author who knows her city, its people, and their heart." - Kirkus

"Her writing is assured, energetic, and adroitly plotted, sweeping the reader along through an engrossing narrative that endears readers to the Plumb family for their essential humanity. " - Publishers Weekly

"Anyone with siblings will appreciate the character dynamics at play here, although they may not care much for each character individually. A fun, quick read recommended for fans of Emma Straub and Meg Wolitzer." - Library Journal

"The Nest ambles along so beautifully, what a pleasure to read! It's a wise, funny, compassionate family drama, full of irresistible surprises, witty conversations, and necessary emotional truths." - Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

"A masterfully constructed, darkly comic, and immensely captivating tale...not only clever, but emotionally astute. Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney is a real talent." - Elizabeth Gilbert

"In her intoxicating first novel, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney has written an epic family story that unfolds in a deeply personal way. The Nest is a fast-moving train and Sweeney's writing dares us to keep up. I couldn't stop reading or caring about the juicy and dysfunctional Plumb family." - Amy Poehler

"Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney delivers an acerbic satire of the leisure class while crafting an affecting human story that embroils us utterly in the fates of the Plumbs...This book keeps its blade sharp and its heart open." - Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves

"The Nest is a trenchant, darkly funny, and beautiful novel." - Bret Anthony Johnston

This information about The Nest shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Wonderful reality!
Just realized I never logged in to rate, although I had started a discussion. This book was wonderfully real...warts and all. Set in NYC made me homesick but in a good way...and the characters were eerily familiar...totally engrossing and entertaining.


Counting Your Chickens
I can always tell when I enjoy a book because I choose to finish it in the early morning. It's my best reading time, before anyone else gets up, before any responsibilities may kick in, usually before sunrise. So it was with The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. The novel starts out catching your immediate interest when a unhappily married man, Leo Plumb, escapes his cousin's wedding reception to lure one of the waitresses to his car. "She moved through the crowd with a lambent glow—partly because the setting sun was bathing the eastern end of Long Island an indecent pink, partly because of the truly excellent cocaine wreaking havoc with Leo’s synapses. The bubbles rising and falling on Matilda’s tray felt like an ecstatic summons, an invitation meant just for him." His indiscretion has tragic consequences that affects the releasing of the family Nest, money bequeathed from their father to be doled out when the youngest of the four siblings turns 40. And so begins the unraveling of the plot as we are provided alternating chapters of the Plumb family and how each one had expected to use that money, how each one's plan is now ruined by Leo.

I enjoyed the structure of the novel and the character development. Besides the smart, usually high, but always charming oldest child, Leo, there is Jack, his gay brother who deals in antiques and is trying to hide from his loving partner, Walker, that he has taken out a loan on the house against the hope of the Nest. Beatrice, Leo's sister, works for an online literary magazine and has stalled as a writer of promise. Her initial well received stories were all thinly described portraits of Leo. The youngest, Melody, who turns 40 soon, is struggling to keep her twin daughters in good schools, and SAT tutors as college looms with the next year. Again the Nest was her solution for college tuition. There are several side characters as well, including Stephanie, Leo's possible love interest and savior, and her Brooklyn neighbor whose 9/11 secret becomes a subplot.

I enjoyed seeing the development of the characters as they struggle through their anger. The build up to the final 40th birthday diner was well developed and the resolution satisfying. I would recommend this as an enjoyable portrait and a timely warning for the children of the baby boomers.

Sandi W.

2.5 stars
The story line in this novel was a great idea. It started out with a lot of potential. The authors prose was easy to read and I felt overall her words moved well. The problem stemmed from all the unneeded characters and extras that were thrown into this story. They were very confusing, drug the premise of the story down, parts were just plain boring, hard for any main character follow through, and just way too many characters. Although easy to read, page by page, this book was easy to put down and hard to pick back up.

This is the story of 4 siblings who expected to gain a sizeable inheritance from their deceased father, once the youngest turned 40 years old. However before that happened one of the siblings got into a bad car wreck and their mother, guardian of the inheritance, signed away all the money to keep that child out of litigation. The story tells of each siblings reason for needing the money and how the one who benefited from all the money planned to pay his sibling back.

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Author Information

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. She has an MFA from Bennington.

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