Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
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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.
For as long as any of the four Plumb siblings can remember, they've had the promise of "The Nest"—their nickname for the trust fund, set to activate when Melody, the youngest, turns forty. But when their mother makes the unilateral decision to drain The Nest when Leo, the oldest of the four, gets behind the wheel under the influence . . . with a teenage catering waitress as his passenger . . . things change. The accident is a PR nightmare, and it takes 90% of the shared inheritance they've all been banking on to set things right. Leo's in the middle of a heinous divorce, Jack has been borrowing against his property without his partner's knowledge, Bea's been promising her agent a nonexistent manuscript for more than ten years, and Melody has a mortgage and her twin daughters' college educations to think of. As the windfall they've all been counting on disappears, they must all find a way out of the holes they've dug for themselves.
I'm a lower middle class girl who lives in a fairly rural section of Alabama, so I don't really understand why I have such a fascination with tales of the idle Manhattan rich, but I do. I love the opulence and luxury and scandal and irresponsibility, and when it comes to that, this book did not disappoint. In fact, it reminded me of the television series Gossip Girl, albeit for an older audience. The Plumb family drama is an intriguing web that kept me on my toes, and I loved learning more and more about each character as the story went on. However, the writing style often made it difficult to concentrate—the author often jumps from one character's head to another and back again rather abruptly. I understand why she used this technique, but it served more to pull me out of the story rather than enrich the reading experience. There also seemed to be too many minor characters, too many subplots that didn't quite reach proper resolution. Even so, I enjoyed it and look forward to more from Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. I hope this book is developed into a television show, the episodic nature of the story would work quite well for a miniseries at least.
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