I avoided reading The Nest for quite awhile. I picked it up at the library several times before I finally checked it out. I was coming off Julian BarnI avoided reading The Nest for quite awhile. I picked it up at the library several times before I finally checked it out. I was coming off Julian Barnes' The Noise of Time, which was dark and thought-provoking. A family comedy recommended by Amy Poehler seemed just the thing. Actually, it was. The Plumb family consists of four adult siblings who seem to have been scarred by their very strange upbringing. Their mother makes a brief appearance and she's textbook cold and creepy. They are about to receive a large inheritance from their father that was held until the youngest sibling's 40th birthday. That event is only months away when the oldest brother Leo becomes involved in a scandal that basically drains the inheritance. How to cope? The other three siblings have been counting on the money and now it's pretty much gone. The interesting thing about the book is how Jack, Bea, and Melody face the situation and move on. In the beginning, they think that Leo will repay them - because that's what he promised and they want to believe him. He's the charismatic big brother who became a dot com millionaire. He must have money stashed away somewhere. Well, maybe he will repay the fund and maybe he won't, but that becomes irrelevant to some extent. The book is really about how this fiasco brings the siblings together and changes their lives.
One aspect of this book that I really enjoyed is a look at the lives of people who work in the New York literary world. Leo made his fortune with a popular website called SpeakEasyMedia, which started out as a "writers hub." It devolved into something else, but working for Leo helped one of his younger sisters, Bea, launch a writing career, which eventually stalled. She had been a promising author of short stories who now works for a literary magazine. She is trying to revive her writing career without much success. In the aftermath of a divorce precipitated by his imbroglio, Leo reconnects with a former lover, Stephanie, who is Bea's agent. Stephanie is a very interesting character. Her agency has been acquired by a larger one and now she has plenty of money, but she's no longer in charge. This provides her with a certain freedom. Although she's back with Leo for a time, Stephanie confesses at one point (to the reader) that she's always relieved when her love affairs don't quite work out, as she likes living alone. She "led a life of deliberate solitude" (p. 233). I was thinking she would have benefitted from the Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera arrangement: They lived in houses next door to each other with a connecting passage, if they wanted to be together. Leo is an unsympathetic, reprehensible character, the only one in the book, so you can tell the outcome I was hoping for with regard to the whole Stephanie and Leo reboot. But he's also kind of fascinating in a self-centered, narcissistic way. You know, the kind of person you know to avoid, but he's fun to watch from a distance.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. There are a couple of awkward aspects to it, but it is well-written and Sweeney has created characters who are realistic. Maybe losing "the nest" was not such a bad thing after all....more