I don't know why, but I love books about tortured souls - The Great Gatsby, The Things They Carried, The Paris Wife, The Art of Fielding. I know that sounds dark and twisty (as Shonda Rhimes would say), but hear me out. There is something about really complex characters with flaws and baggage that just grips me.
I think that's why I devoured Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's book The Nest. It was recommended to me by my upstairs neighbor who reads at least two books per week. She said, "I loved the family drama. I couldn't put it down!"
The Nest is the story of the Plumb siblings - Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody. When they were young their father began to set aside money for their future. He told them about this "future fund" and over the years it became nicknamed "the nest." According to the terms of the trust, each sibling would receive an equal share on the youngest sibling's 40th birthday.
The book begins one year before that milestone when the nest is jeopardized. Leo, the oldest Plumb sibling, has been in a car accident, with a passenger, while he was on drugs. To settle the case out of court and protect the family name, funds from the nest are used to sweep it under the rug. When the family attorney has to reveal this decision to the other three siblings, all hell breaks loose.
The siblings gather for lunch with Leo to insist he replenish the nest, since they all had grand plans for the money (paying off a second mortage, sending children to college loan-free, etc.). When Leo walks in the room, the author writes:
"The three of them wondered how he did it, how he always managed to be unruffled while putting everyone else on edge, how even in this moment, at this lunch, where Leo should be abashed, laid bare, and the balance of power could have, should have, shifted against him, be still commanded their focus and exuded strength. Even now, they were deferentially waiting, hoping, he would speak first."
D'Aprix Sweeney's descriptions of each of the four siblings are so beautifully written and rooted in universal truths about the human condition. Here she writes about Bea, the older of the two sisters, when she first met the love of her life, Tucker. At the time Tucker was her professor and 20 years her senior.
"She loved the power his desire afforded her. Her inability to produce anything significant of the novel made her feel like such an imposter, frightened even, and his desire was a balm. She loved the secret of what they were surely going to do. She flirted with him mercilessly at the beginning. Requesting private conferences that she dressed for as if she was going to be undressed, even though she knew she wasn't. She carried his lust around like a magic coin in her pocket that she could spend when she decided she was ready."
I love the simile "like a magic coin in her pocket she could spend."
The chapters alternate perspectives, focusing on a different sibling each time, as well as some characters that orbit in the same universe - the woman in the car with Leo during the accident, Leo's girlfriend, Bea's boss, etc. As the perspective shift and change you learn more and more about the plans tied up in the nest and why its sudden depletion has the family unraveling.
The Nest is my favorite book I have read in 2016. The writing is incredibly descriptive and D'Aprix Sweeney's understanding of family dynamics, love and betrayal make for a novel based on sincere truths. If you're looking for a new book, get tangled up with the Plumbs.