If you are anything like me, you will avoid ads at any given cost. I listen to several podcasts that include ads, and while I understand that you put a lot of time into it and you need specific equipment, I will not use any of these products services after having it shoved down my throat. (MeUndies, Casper Mattress, Blue Apron, Warby Parker, Square Space- you are all dead to me. Lighten up on the marketing.) The Nest was repeatedly thrown at us by various booksellers, emails, and Facebook ads. What caught my eye finally is that a few of my Goodreads friends had given it a decent review (3-4 stars), but I still wasn’t willing to pay $15 to read it on Kobo, and definitely not $20 to buy a hard copy. When I saw it on sale on Kobo for $3.99, I figured it was finally time to give it a shot!
The Goodreads Synopsis?
A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.
Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.
Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.
This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.
I’ll be completely upfront, I hated this novel. I didn’t find it warm or funny or perceptive of anything other than ridiculous Gen X-ers who are more self-absorbed than you would think possible. I don’t believe that every character must be likeable or redeemable, but I wouldn’t recommend making every single one of your characters an un-likeable, narcissistic jag off who couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag.
Part of the problem is that you never get enough time with any one of the characters to actually build up any interest in or empathy for them. In addition to the four siblings, there are friends and kids that you also hear from. Flipping from one to the next to the next is enough time to irritate you and then move on. The ending attempted to leave everyone on a positive note, but it didn’t seem earned or deserved for anyone.
For most of the book, this is based on the characters rather than the plot. I actually usually enjoy that but not when the characters are the worst (see paragraphs above…). Without getting specific and leaving spoilers, one of the main characters simply disappears and no one seems to care.Why did we read the entire novel for the plotline to suddenly drop off and fade away? Because this is based on character and not plot, it is jarring and leaves everything unfinished and off-kilter. I’m not sure what Sweeney was exactly trying to accomplish with this, but I’m wondering if this happened because she is a first time author. Some have made the argument that real life doesn’t tie up neatly and art imitates life, but I read to escape life. This felt like I was working as a therapist to a family with the morals and ethics of the Kardashian without any of the money or success.
I have absolutely no idea why Harper Collins chose this as their Book of 2016, other than an executive somewhere decided that this would be a big hit, put too much money into it, and then they couldn’t turn back. You can see from the Facebook comments on the post announcing it (pic above) that I was not alone in my thoughts! The 3.49/5 rating on Goodreads is an indication of mediocrity- it’s not that difficult to get a 70%, and certainly shouldn’t when you have Harper Collins, Chapters/Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and countless other entities promoting your work. If you are looking for an author writing in the theme of families, you might want to check out Anne Tyler!
What over-hyped book has let you down?