Forgive me for tying a book review to this day of National Remembrance, but 9/11 figures prominently in Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut literary New York Times Bestseller, THE NEST, released in paperback on April 4, 2017 (original hardback March, 2016.)
After all, it isn’t every day that a found treasure of priceless art is located in the wreckage and ruins of the twin towers… an event that figures prominently in the lives of some key characters.
I may be coming late to the party here, but when THE NEST became a book club selection for my church (I no longer attend their book club – see March 27, 2017 post under Foxy Bibliophile for an explanation) I was intrigued.
The title is linked to Amazon and there are no spoilers ahead.
Let me start out by saying funny-woman Amy Poehler raved about this book as did many a prestigious periodical. All I want to know is, Did any of the paid book reviewers or celebrity spokespersons actually read this book?
Without further ado, meet the Plumb family. Four of the whiny-est, most-self-absorbed adult siblings I have ever had the misfortune to spend money on.
See, their dad didn’t want them to become exactly what they are, so in his Father Knows Best wisdom, he set up a modest trust (modest trust–isn’t that an oxymoron?) The catch is, no one can access the money until the youngest, Melody, reaches age forty.
Okay, so I’m on board for the ride. So far.
But then the novel opens with a periodic sentence that is so long and dreadfully pompous, that I knew faux literary snobs everywhere must be rolling in its faux-exquisiteness like dogs in their own excrement:
As the rest of the guests wandered the deck of the beach club under an early-evening midsummer sky, taking pinched, appraising sips of their cocktails to gauge if the bartenders were using the top-shelf stuff and balancing tiny crab cakes on paper napkins while saying appropriate things about how they’d really lucked out with the weather because the humidity would be back tomorrow, or murmuring inappropriate things about the bride’s snug satin dress, wondering if the spilling cleavage was due to bad tailoring or poor taste (a look their own daughters might say) or the unexpected weight gain, winking and making tired jokes about exchanging toasters for diapers, Leo Plumb left his cousin’s wedding with one of the waitresses.
Ugh. But I rolled my eyes and sallied forth, plumbing my way through THE NEST.
I’m not one to give up…
- Even when there is a new point-of-view narrator almost every chapter.
- Even when some minor characters narrate their own chapters without any previous introduction to the reader–it’s rather like going on a blind date, and then being interrupted during the blind date to go on another blind date, into perpetuity.
- Even when I could care less about the bad choices characters are making because they are so flawed, I can’t even root for them.
And so, here’s the skinny:
THE NEST opens with Leo Plumb snorting cocaine, drinking, picking up a young waitress who is not his wife, and taking her to his sports car under the pretense of “discovering her as a singer a la Mariah Carey and Tommy Mottola” and then having her pay him back by performing a sex act on him while he drives his expensive sports car into a wreck that costs the waitress her foot.
Nice guy, eh? Clearly the black sheep of the family. And his “indiscretion” costs the rest of the Plumb family their trust fund as Leo’s cold-as-a-guillotine mother uses that money to make the scandal go away.
Now gay-cliche’ younger brother Jack is screwed because he’s played fast and loose with the money (unbeknownst to his older, more responsible husband.) He was counting on The Nest to make his problems go away.
Lonely, overweight writer and sister Bea is S.O.L. on the money–the same way she’s been S.O.L. on resurrecting her literary career after early fame and success, followed by a long, Salinger-like absence. She was counting on the money, too.
Youngest sister Melody scraps for everything she and her husband have. But now their twin daughters are approaching college-age and they have no money with which to send them to the colleges of their choice. She was counting on the money–apparently she has never heard of FASFA and student loans. Say what?
Throw in a Lesbian teenage affair for good measure as well. As if Melody doesn’t have enough to worry about with her rebellious daughters.
Mix in a cast of other oddball characters who have an interest in the Plumbs and/or the nest.
Because if you can’t go deeper, go wider. And with characters this shallow, that’s about what you get.
The only character I came to really care about was Leo’s on-again/off-again friend with benefits, Stephanie. But then again, there were times I wanted to slap her and say, “Snap out of it!”
Book snobs, however, will rejoice. There’s enough here to give the discriminating book snob a depression-hangover for a few days at least.
As for me, after finishing THE NEST, I’ll never look at Rodin’s sculpture, THE KISS, the same way again. At least it was instrumental in leading me to the one and only belly laugh from this entirely tedious book.
Thanks for stopping by!
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick