Friday, May 6, 2016

The Nest, Life, Love, Family from a Debut Author

It's been two weeks since I've written and I realize that it wasn't so much the dreaded writers' block as it was a feeling of nesting myself. For the third year now, I have migrated from my Florida nest to my friend Don's Maryland nest. It's a beautiful place but acclimating can often bring on a disturbance in my force, a sense of being discombobulated for a little while. I wanted to settle down long enough to recommend this very talented writer to you.

Product Details
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's "The Nest" is flat out fantastic. And this is coming to you from a reviewer who tends to trash dysfunctional family novels as "been there, done that." Not so with the Plumb family, four disparate siblings being held hostage by their dead father and the trust fund he set up for them. Having just drawn up a trust myself, I know that one of the rules of the road according to lawyers, is to hold off a bit when letting your heirs know what could be theirs if you only kick the bucket sooner rather than later. Ignorance is bliss and even a small inheritance can come as a pleasant surprise when it's unexpected.
In this case, the four Plumbs, found out early on that they would come into a goodly sum on money when the youngest of the siblings, Melody, turned forty. Each of them, in their own very different ways, lived their lives with the specter of that nest egg always just within sight. And then, the unthinkable happened.
This novel begins with a bang, literally. But why spill the beans? It's enough to tell you that Leo, the eldest, and the one around whom the rest of the family seems to rotate like planets to the sun, (as we ask why, why?) causes an accident that brings a world of litigation down on the Plumb family shoulders. His doting mother is only too happy to bail him out with, you guessed it, the money from the nest. How and when will he pay back his younger brother and sisters?
And here's where Sweeney excels. She offers up each one's backstory in increments that put us right into their shoes. Bad decisions? Sure, some. And yet we feel for these people, understanding how, under the right circumstances any one of us could find ourselves financially embarrassed.
For Melody it's her lovingly restored home, purchased with an indulgent husband who just couldn't say no. Now they're upside down in their mortgage and have two delightfully precocious twin girls who will be heading off to college soon.
For Bea, who, as a younger woman, made a name for herself in New York's literary circles with a series of short stories based upon Leo's life, it's a ten year drought, a writer's block so severe that she's long used up her advance and her friendship with the agent who initially discovered her talent.
And then there's Jack, an antiques dealer married to Walter, a much more solvent and cautious man. The financial secrets that Jack has kept from his husband now threaten the demise of a carefully nurtured relationship.
How each of these flawed yet realistic, sympathetic characters learns to love himself is a joy to watch. And how Sweeney, in her well-crafted, sophisticated first novel, weaves her tale, integrating each person's story into the whole, is a pleasure to behold. And Leo? Sorry, not telling. Read it and we'll talk.