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As a child I envied Harry Potter’s magical abilities, the Pevensie children’s gateway to Narnia, and even Anne Shirley’s freedom to float down the creek in a barge of her own making, the fact that it almost ended in tragedy be damned. As an adult, I envy the fictional characters their financial problems, which can always be resolved within about 300 pages. (And yes, I’m disappointed in myself, too.)
As someone drowning in student debt and trying to fit an adult’s life into a shoestring paycheck, I would be elated to deal with the problems of the Plumb clan, who all have the kind of money problems brought on by an abundance of wealth in the first place. The titular nest is their collective inheritance, which they are months from receiving, and which has been jeopardized by eldest son Leo, who spends the novel chasing validation and other ways to caress his own ego. His sister Bea is the opposite–she’s surviving, but not thriving the way someone with her talent should.
Jack is not quite as spectacular as his siblings, and just smart enough to resent them for it. Melody doesn’t shine, but has no aspirations to, and is all the better off for it, both as a person and a character. She shows the most growth, and has a better grasp of the value of a dollar than any of her siblings. Luckily, of all of them, she’s the only parent, so the kids in the story have the benefit of a well-adjusted parent, at least.
The siblings, all in their forties, are already distant at the start of the novel, but the wedge created by the precarious state of their inheritance only serves to exacerbate the four decades of rivalries and resentments, and it’s in those moments that the average reader finds these would-be millionaires recognizable and relatable. There’s also a great subplot with Melody’s daughter exploring her sexuality that feels organic and real, despite the busyness of the narrative.
Deep into the story, which rotates between all four siblings as well as Melody’s twin daughters pov’s, it becomes clear how members of the uppermost levels of the socioeconomic class are divorced from the reality of money, with no concept of how twenty dollars can mean the difference between staying afloat and drowning. Money is nothing more than a concept to them.
It begs the question of why we are allowing those people control over the economy, but as excellent as The Nest is, it can’t answer everything.