Friday, November 11, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

She recognized the undeniable satisfaction of the first emotional fissure because an unraveling was still something grown-up and, therefore, life affirming. See? the broken heart signaled. I loved enough to lose; I felt enough to weep. Because when you were young enough, the stakes of love were so very small, nearly insignificant. How tragic could a breakup be when it was part of the fabric of expectation from the beginning?
The family at the center of The Nest is awful. We're not talking run of the mill Tolstoy unhappy but interestingly awful family, we're talking dripping with privilege, oblivious to the world around them awful. That's important to get out of the way immediately, because if you can't get through books with self-centered, unsympathetic protagonists, this book isn't for you. The story revolves around the Plumbs, a set of four adult siblings coming to terms with the loss of The Nest, the inheritance their father put aside for them. Each of them has built a life around the additional privilege The Nest was going to afford them, and each manages the loss of that reality with differing levels of self absorption.

I enjoyed hating the Plumbs, but D'Aprix Sweeney also gives us some more likeable and nuanced secondary characters with actual problems. She weaves in a rich variety of stories and characters, each moving in and out of the lives of the siblings, and contrasting their realities with those of the Plumbs. There is a set of teenaged twins grappling with their individual identities for the first time, a neighbor who lost his wife when the Twin Towers went down, and a successful single mother, managing her own isolation. There is real pain and growth and living going on in the novel, but very little of it is done by the Plumbs; this cast of secondary characters serves to highlight the privilege and disconnection each of the siblings embodies.

The novel moves quickly and doesn't stop much for reflection. Because there are so many storylines and so many perspectives, D'Aprix Sweeney doesn't spend much time on any one of them. She moves quickly from one to the next and builds tension and suspense along the way. This also makes it easier to live with the Plumbs; you never have to deal with them for too long, and the story is always moving forwards.

Without giving too much away--there are a lot of twists, many of them riveting--the ending is a little frustrating. The storylines tie up just a little too neatly, especially for a novel that seems okay alienating its readers. They don't all resolve perfectly, but the last chapters take on a tidyness that doesn't show up anywhere else in the book, and feel less genuine and real.

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