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ELEMIS Book Club: The Nest

30th May 2016

Woman reading at a cafeteria and having a coffee

 

Touted as one of the books of 2016, this eagerly-awaited tale of a dysfunction will have you gripped from the start with its fast-paced prose and multiple perspectives.

A sharp and funny debut from Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney about a wonderfully dysfunctional New York family and the three grown-up siblings fighting to save the family money pot – the ‘nest’ – as their oldest brother threatens to lose it all.
When Leo Plumb drives off drunk from a party in a sports car with a nineteen-year-old waitress in tow, to the moral and legal fallout must be added the horrible inconvenience to his brother and sisters. Leo’s rehab costs have severely depleted ‘the nest’ – the family’s joint trust fund that would have cut them loose from their myriad financial issues.

For Melody, a suburban wife and mother, it was to cover both an unwieldy mortgage and her daughters’ college tuition. Antiques dealer Jack has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband. And Beatrice, a once-promising short story writer, can’t seem to finish her overdue novel.
Brought together as never before, the Plumb siblings must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledging the choices they have made in their own lives.
Ferociously astute, warm and funny, The Nest is a brilliant debut chronicling the hilarity and savagery of family life.

 

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Below are some questions to get your reading group talking:

1. The Nest does not center on a sole protagonist, but rather a group of people. How did Sweeney’s decision to structure her novel this way—from the perspective of multiple characters, and in the third person, affect the way you identified with the characters? Did you find that it made you more or less sympathetic to each sibling’s predicament, and in what way? Could you imagine yourself in any of their shoes?

2. Each sibling (as well as a few other characters, like Vinnie) keeps secrets—not just from one another, but from the important people in their lives—their partners, their children, their parents, their friends. Did you find that there were secrets that should have been revealed earlier in the story? Did you find that more secrets were kept for selfless or selfish reasons? Have you ever kept any important secrets? Would you do so again?

3. Most of the novel takes place in and around New York City —the Plumb family grew up on Long Island, and three of the four Plumb siblings made Manhattan their home. A 9/11 subplot also weaves its way throughout the novel. What makes—or doesn’t make—this novel feel like a New York novel to you? Did it bolster or contradict any of your opinions or beliefs about New York City?

4. Each sibling seems to feel that they are the ones who need the money from the Nest the most. Did you find yourself leaning toward the pleas or the argument of one sibling in particular, and if so, who, and why?

5. How do the Plumb siblings’ relationships—both with one another, and as a group vs. Leo, evolve over the course of the novel—and from adolescence to adulthood? If you have brothers or sisters, have your relationships changed, or are the dynamics still fundamentally the same?

6. Leo and Stephanie’s romance shifts in significant ways over the course of the novel. In what ways does their relationship change, and in what ways is it affected by the opinions and decisions made by the rest of the family? Have you ever found yourself in a relationship where your partner and your family clashed with one another?

7. How did you feel about the novel’s end, regarding Leo’s fate? Did the epilogue satisfy enough of your desire for a ‘happy ending,’ or with Leo’s absence, was it more melancholy than expected?

8. Do you feel that the bond of family trumps all—including behaviour? Do you think it’s possible to rebuild trust once it has been broken? Why or why not? And are there some bonds that can become stronger than those of family?

What did you think of the novel? Let us know on social media.



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