Book Review: The Nest by Maria by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (Harper Avenue, 2016)
The Nest – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Harper Avenue, 2016)

The Nest seems to have been one of the more hyped books of Spring/Summer 2016 and so it’s disappointing that, in the end, it was only kind of mediocre. It’s an easy read – something to pick up on a long weekend or a couple of days at the beach – but there’s no real substance here and D’Aprix Sweeney doesn’t add anything new to the well-worn library of family dramas.

The novel focuses on the four adult Plumb siblings – Leo, Jack, Melody, and Beatrice. A few months away from Melody’s fortieth birthday and their long-awaited inheritance. Each of them has their own reasons for counting on the riches stored in what they’ve come to call “the nest”. But just months away, Leo (the charming reprobate) makes a series of poor decisions with disastrous consequences that put the nest in jeopardy.

Family’s fighting over money is sadly nothing new and The Nest doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation on the theme. The story moves between character perspectives, which at least keeps things slightly more interesting. Leo is supposed to be charming and irresistible but I never understood why a bunch of middle-aged adults kept falling for his tricks. Melody is the stressed-out suburban mom, Beatrice the quirky single artist, Jack the gay arts dealer. Events fall out about how you’d expect.

One of the stranger choices that D’Aprix Sweeney makes is occasional chapters focusing in great detail on side characters, some of whom we never see again or don’t have much of an impact on the larger plot. Do we need to know about the life and marriage of Leo’s girlfriend’s neighbour? No, we don’t, but we learn about it anyway. It seems like an attempt to create a richer and more vibrant world around the main characters but it falls flat because it’s easy to see how non-essential these sections are.

There’s nothing harmful or terrible in this novel and so if all you want is something mindless to read at the beach, it will probably do the trick. However, in a world full of wonderful books, you can do so much better.

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