Thursday, April 14, 2016

"The Nest," by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

I recently (4/7/16) wrote (once again) about enjoying novels about families and their relationships, including family “sagas.” I just read another such novel, mostly about just two generations, titled “The Nest” (HarperCollins, 2016), by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. This one, a current bestseller, is a bit snarkier than most, and features mostly overly entitled characters. Four siblings have been waiting for years for the disbursement of the trust their parents set up for them, the “nest” of the title, to be received when the youngest sibling turns 40. Just before that time, the oldest, least responsible sibling, Leo, has an accident caused by alcohol and drugs and, ahem, sexual activity while driving. (This last sentence may be the most risqué sentence I have included in this blog over the years….) Leo's mother, who is in charge of the trust and is allowed to make decisions about it up until the time it is disbursed (his father has died), chooses to use a huge chunk of the nest to pay off the young woman who was hurt, as well as Leo’s wife, who immediately makes high financial demands in the course of a divorce case. The other three siblings, all of whom have made unwise financial expenditures and commitments based on their expectations, are angry to find out that their share of "the nest" will be dramatically smaller than they had expected. They try to put pressure on Leo to pay them back (in the past, he had made a lot of money, and they believe he has either money salted away, or the capacity to make more), and he claims he will, but the story becomes complicated. The interesting part is watching the four siblings (and their rather cold and detached mother, as well as various spouses and significant others) interact, with the money issue front and center. Although it doesn’t seem to be true for this mother, the scenario, or any other such scenario involving family money, trusts, inheritances, loans, etc., is one that gives many parents pause, and even nightmares. They want to help their (adult) children, but they also don’t want the money to become a source of contention and division among their progeny. The characters in this story, especially the four main ones, are, to various degrees, self-centered, entitled, whiny, and pathetic, but also very human and sometimes redeemed by flashes of decency and, yes, love. The novel is both entertaining and squirm-inducing, and I never once considered not reading it to the end.

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