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The height of dysfunction!

The Nest - Cynthia D`Aprix Sweeney

The Nest, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author; Mia Barrow, narrator‏

Each member of the Plumb family is preoccupied with their own greed, secrets, lies and devious behavior. Their interactions with each other are on the surface as they are all fairly egocentric. As relationships are broken and their lives are turned upside down because of highly dysfunctional Leo Plumb, one has to wonder whether or not his siblings and parents have actually created the monster by enabling him to become the villain. His irresponsible behavior and his car accident that caused grievous injuries to his passenger and could have caused a major scandal, has placed his brothers and sisters in various chaotic situations. Francie Plumb, the rather self-centered mother of all the Plumb children, and her current husband, want to contain the story at all costs. Therefore, since she is in charge of the small bit of money that her first husband had put aside for their four children in order to afford them a safety net when they were older, and it had grown considerably, she unilaterally, without consulting any of them, decided to disperse an exorbitant amount of their “Nest” to place Leo, the bad seed, in a fancy rehab and to pay off the victim in his car. She did not use any of her own vast fortune, and instead claimed she needed to protect herself since the downturn in the economy had taken a toll on her. The children had been eagerly awaiting their payout which was fast approaching with the youngest daughter’s 40th birthday, at which time it could be doled out. Now, only 10% of their expected fortunes awaited them.

Because each of the siblings had been expecting a large sum of money, they had overextended themselves in one way or another and were deep in debt. Leo’s accident and their mother’s need to keep it quiet turned their lives upside down. They were all, with the exception of daughter Bea, deep in arrears with bills they could now, not pay. Without the windfall, many of the families were suddenly in desperate need of cash, and their reactions varied from sympathy toward their brother to anger at him and their mother. When a contrite Leo asked for their trust and promised that he would try and repay them in 90 days, what could they do? Could he be trusted or would he revert to his former reckless life and behavior?  Would he burn all his bridges? What choices would he make? Would he be responsible or revert to his past behavior, drinking, doing drugs, womanizing and lying? They were between a rock and a hard place.

Will the family be able to put themselves back together again? Will adversity destroy them or bring them closer? From my own personal experience, I know that it is difficult to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. What would have probably been a perfect analysis of the Plumb family, in crisis, seemed to turn into a book that had a PC agenda demanding that every controversial issue on G-d’s earth have an audience. There is Stephanie, the pregnant former girlfriend of Leo Plumb who becomes a single mother. There is an illegal, under aged immigrant, in the person of a promiscuous girl who was performing a sex act when the car accident, the catalyst causing the ultimate family crisis, actually occurred. Leo is a sociopath in his early 40’s. He is married, but childless, addicted to drugs and his own pleasure, and is in the throes of a disastrous divorce from his spendthrift, money hungry, high-flying and very angry, vindictive wife, Victoria. He thinks nothing of lying and serving his own needs first, without considering anyone else. There is Vinnie who lost his arm in an IED explosion and is an angry young man. He loves Matilda and believes that she has been taken advantage of by the wealthy Plumb family and their high end attorney. They make an odd couple, one footless and one armless, like the Rodin sculpture of The Kiss that was damaged in the terrorist attack that took down the Towers. We have a retired security guard, Tommy, who finds what he thought was a message from his wife, in the wreckage of the Twin Towers after 9/11, and in a moment of indiscretion, he steals it. This damaged relic, “The Kiss”, remains hidden in his house, as he mourns his loss, and he has been tortured by its theft ever since. We have a homosexual brother, Jack, who is childless, in a relationship with Walker that is coming apart at the seams because of Jack’s questionable ethics, secrets, and lies. We have a sister, Bea, who is unmarried and childless, an author who used her brother as a character in a series of successful novels, but has had no recently published successful books. She is still mourning the loss of her married lover, Tucker, whom she nursed after his stroke until his death. She works for Paul who is a shy man who observes, supports and loves her in silence. The final sibling is sister Melody, who feels neglected and unloved by her mother. She believes she is kind of the outsider in the family. She over compensates for her mother’s neglect, now that she is the mother of twins, by being a somewhat overzealous parent. She spends far more than her pocket can afford as do most of the siblings. Her twins, who are high school students, are struggling with their own sexuality. One, Louisa, believes she is a lesbian and the other, Nora, wonders if she, therefore, is also gay, since they are twins. There is also Simone, Walter, Nathan and more. Graphic sex, too, seems to unnecessarily often pop its head on the pages of this book.

The narrator did a good job of capturing the attitudes and personalities of the characters, portraying them fairly authentically so that the listener can actually see a picture of the character in their mind’s eye. However, there were so many issues and so many characters that it is sometimes difficult to keep everything straight. For that reason, it is better to select the print version. The book is written with levity, although it is not the laugh out loud kind, and much of the subject matter made the funny lines fall flat for me.