Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney - A Big Surprise for Me

You all know that I have a tendency to disagree with most everybody when it comes to literary fiction bestsellers.  By the time I get to them, they have been hyped ad nauseum, and there's just about no chance for the book to live up to the buzz (The Girl on the Train anyone?).  So when Margie Scott Tucker, the Books, Inc. impresario who runs the 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club in Palo Alto, told us last month that The Nest would be our May book, I thought (petulantly, I might add) "Do I have to?"  But because I enjoy the book club so much (even when Meg Waite Clayton doesn't come), I figured what the heck.

In my typical long-winded fashion, I'm trying to say that I was way wrong.  The Nest is not only very good, it's actually going to go on my rec table at Recycle Books.  I ended up giving it a 3.5/4 (which is the minimum rating to have the privilege of being selected for Sunday mornings), but I have to say it's one of the best-written, but still readable, books I have read in a very long time.  I know that's saying a lot.  It's one of those books where every word, I thought, was perfect.  These are the kind that are usually too literary for me, but that wasn't the case with The Nest.  Why am I not giving it a 4/4 or even higher?  Only because the story and characters didn't blow me away.  I liked it and them, but not ferociously so.

Instead of telling you specifically what the book is about, let me quote a paragraph on the inside flap of the cover:

The Nest is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend on 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.

Let me list some of the best features of this book:

1.  The prologue grabs you immediately and makes you want to read on.
2.  You feel you know the characters, and find them interesting, as soon as they appear.
3.  Especially as the book moves along, you find that you are looking forward to the next chapter and to which central character hits the spotlight.
4.  The Nest is proof that I don't have to do a bunch of crying in order to like a book a lot.  In fact, I did almost none.
5.  It's fun to read a story about a bunch of dysfunctional characters and see how, or whether, they progress into functional characters.
6.  I can't believe that this is a debut novel!

I've told you how well-written it is.  But there are still just a few passages I want to quote for you:

"He would sing into her ear, his voice pockmarked from whisky."  How great a word is pockmarked?
"The quick pulse at the corner of her eye was beating as if there were tiny wings trapped beneath the skin."
"...the humidity crept northward and eastward, slowly making its way up the Jersey shore until it settled over the city like a clammy, uninvited embrace..."

I could go on.  Her use of the English language is just outstanding.  But the story and characters are very good too.  I think everybody would like this at least a little bit - even an old curmudgeon like me!


  1. I added this one to my library list just yesterday. And I get unreasonably excited to see another D'Aprix! That's my son's last name. :)

  2. No kidding. This is the 1st (and 2nd) time I have ever seen that name.

  3. What high praise! I've got to get my hands on this one.

    1. We just had our Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday book club meeting last night. I love this book club because it's run by the co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain (11 stores, I think). She always has insider tidbits.
      As for the book itself, everybody liked it, but I think I liked it a bit more than most.