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Book Discussion Questions: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest book coverTitle:  The Nest
Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Page Count: 353 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Lit, Dysfunctional Family Fiction
Tone:  Sardonic, Moving

Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point after an ensuing accident endangers the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, which they are months away from finally receiving. 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.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Is this book funny? Is it romantic (in world-view)? One review compared it to Nancy Meyers movies – (e.g., Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated); would you agree?

2. Multiple reviews compared the opening chapter in some way to a movie-ready hook with action, sex, and drama. Was this an effective way to set the story in motion? Did you find it irresistible or off-putting?

3. In an interview with BookPage, Sweeney says she’s always described the book as being about family and that it surprised her to hear it described by other people as a book about money. Does it surprise you that she didn’t predict others’ perception?

4. In that same conversation, Sweeney points out the book has given people the opportunity to talk about something that is important in everyone’s life but rarely discussed in public. In your opinion, is this true?

5. Did you happen to learn the idea that sparked this book?

… she got the idea for the book while walking through Manhattan one day, on her way to meet her own family for brunch. “I was noticing all of these people sitting in the window with their drinks, on every street corner,” she says. “And I just had an image in my head of family members who are about to get together, but they’re having a separate drink …and the image really stuck with me. And I just started thinking about who the people would be and why they needed courage to see one another, and why they couldn’t drink in front of one of another, and what was difficult about this meeting they were about to have. And once I started started answering those questions, that’s how the story started to take shape. (NPR: All Things Considered)

   What did the moments in the story prior to the lunch meeting reveal about each character?

6. Did you like spending time with the characters? Does that matter? Were there those you were more excited to read about or with whom you could better identify?

7. Were the siblings wrong to make plans for the anticipated money? Do you blame them?

From The Washington Post: An organization called Wealth-X (world’s leading ultra-high net worth intelligence firm) issued report about what it calls “looming wave of wealth transfers”.  Baby Boomers are expected to bequeath some $16 trillion to their children over the next three decades…For rich, this holds little suspense, but for upper-mid-class Americans balancing mortgage payments, tuition bills, and retirement plans on a brittle tower of monthly paychecks, this bounty looms with the promise of salvation.

      Does this frame change your answer at all?

8. Is Leo believable as a character? Do you have any sympathy for him?

9. Are the Plumb characters well-rounded?

10. What about the siblings’ partners? Are the non-Plumb characters too idyllic?

11. Many readers express an affinity for Stephanie. Why do you think that is? Were you rooting for her and Leo to be together? Would you have wanted to read even more about her?

12. What about the subplots with Miranda, Vinnie, and Tommy? Were you invested in these stories as much as those of the Plumbs?

13. The New York Times Book Review piece on The Nest opens with this line: “’The Nest’ is a novel in the Squabbling Sibling genre.” Do you think of this as a genre?

14. Another behind-the-scenes tidbit:

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s agent sent her novel to publishers the Monday after Thanksgiving. As readers who had likely spent long weekends with their own dysfunctional families, he told her, they would be especially receptive to her book’s dysfunctional Plumb clan. The plan worked, and the 55-year-old’s debut landed a seven-figure advance. (The Atlantic)

      Do you admire the calculated timing, or does it seem coincidental?  In your opinion would the book have been just as well received without the proximity to the holidays?

15. The Nest is about a group of privileged group of people – upper-middle-class white siblings – yet would you say that it is successful in touching on issues more universal? How so?

16. It’s also been described as a “New York novel”, a category that though lauded in literary circles is criticized for being too navel-gazing (esp. with authors and agents included!). Would you place it in this category? What makes it so? What transcends those boundaries?

17. The Nest is about inheritance, and upon hearing that word we immediately think of money, objects, or property. What about the intangibles we inherit from family? Consider the siblings and what is illustrated about how we inherit a place in a family and all that entails. What do you think?

18. Walker is fascinated that a group of adults could use the term ‘the Nest’ in all “earnestness and never even casually contemplate the twisted metaphor of the thing, and how it related to their dysfunctional behavior as individuals and a group.”(260) What did he mean?

19. Walker also observes that the issue with Leo and the money sparked a different dynamic between the siblings, that they were “making casual forays into one another’s lives”…and held out hope that they might ”…move on, try to forge relationships with one another that weren’t about the inheritance.”(261) Did you notice this, too?  Do you think this would have happened without the situation with Leo?

20. Late in the book, Melody asks, “when did Leo start hating us?…How was it so easy for him to leave?…Was it really just about money? Was it about us?”(291)  We’ve seen things from Leo’s perspective; can we answer those questions?

21. How did the scenes with Louisa and Nora add to the overall story? What, if anything, do the sisters – both individually and together (esp. as twins!) illuminate regarding family and individual dynamics?  Did you see these forays into the ‘next’ generation as distraction or complements?

22. Melody has an epiphany about herself (with Walt’s help) at the Chinese restaurant outing (300). Do you remember what she realized?  Do you think her life will be different going forward?

23. How did you feel about the final scenes of looking for Leo? About the scene from Leo’s perspective?  Should Paul or Bea or Leo have acted differently?  Did you understand their actions?

24. Were you hoping that Leo would redeem himself? Does the author’s choice seem believable?

25. Did the epilogue resolve everything a little too neatly, or did you find it satisfying?

26. NYT Critic “Janet Maslin argued that the primary flaw of the novel was that it was unable to break out of the tropes of dysfunctional family literature.” Would you agree? Whether or not you agree, did this affect your experience of the book?

27. One book podcast recommended this title for a woman who doesn’t read but who loves reality TV such as the Real Housewives franchise. In your opinion, is this a good fit?

28. To whom might you recommend this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!


website of author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
LitLovers discussion guide of The Nest
MPPL-created character map (contains mild spoilers)
from NPR: “Humor and Heart Fill The Nest
In The Nest, a Family Pot to Split Sets Sibling Relations to a Slow Boil” via The New York Times
The Nest: A Tale of Family, Fortune, and Dysfunction” via The Atlantic


Seven Days of Us book coverSeven Days of Us
by Francesca Hornak

This Is Where I Leave You book coverThis Is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

Vacationers book coverThe Vacationers
by Emma Straub

Andrea’s Pick: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Andrea Staff Pick photoIt’s Leonard Peacock’s birthday today, and instead of receiving gifts, he’s giving them. He’s giving a gift and saying goodbye to each of the people he cares most about. After that, he’s going to do something horrible. It’s Leonard Peacock’s birthday, and he’s going to school with a gun in his backpack.

The heartbreaking, luminous, and ultimately hopeful Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is a challenging read that will touch readers deeply.

Podcasts for Book Lovers

As a book lover, where do you find ideas on what to read next? Certainly there are a number of great options, from recommendations given by friends, to interactions with your favorite public library (in person and online), to magazines, newspapers and trips to book shops. Today, we will look at some rich and varied podcasts that can offer yet another great way to find books and connect more deeply with them and their authors. There are many podcasts for book lovers – here are just a few.

Book Riot is a one-stop-shop for every book lover. There is the eponymous podcast, hosted by two book aficionados from the east coast.  However, there are also seven other shows that cover a number of various themes and genres, including personalized book recommendations on Get Booked, SFF Yeah which covers science fiction and fantasy, and Recommended which features many great authors giving their reading picks.


The Book Review podcast from the New York Times takes you a step further in depth into recommended books. Generally they will have two detailed interviews with authors of books that have received strong reviews in The Times, and then a panel of editors give a brief critical summary of the books that they are currently reading (though the books can be old or new).


Based out of the UK, The Readers is a more casual podcast that features a few British and American friends (and self-proclaimed bibliophiles) discussing books they’ve read. Every week they feature books, both new and old, and discuss what they liked or didn’t like about each book. They will also try to convince each other to read books one likes but the others haven’t come across yet. From Maya Angelou to Margaret Atwood to Ian McEwan, from horror to the classics, this show covers them all and adds a personal charm.

Public Radio’s KCRW produces Bookworm, another author-interview based podcast. It is hosted by broadcaster Michael Silverblatt, and has a conversational format that allows a different author each week to engage in a discussion of not only his or her book, but also his or her experiences and views in other areas of their life. This unscripted conversation can go in varying directions and often includes dramatic readings. The authors interviewed run the gamut of debut authors to seasoned veterans, and include poets and playwrights as well.

As mentioned, these are just a few ideas. There is a rich and robust bevy of book podcasts, and finding those that fill the right niche for you can open your world of reading to a more colorful and multidimensional place.

Cathleen’s Pick: Something Rotten!

Cathleen Staff Pick photoIn a hilariously meta production, Something Rotten! imagines the birth of musical theater as the only recourse left to brother playwrights trying to compete with bad-boy superstar Will Shakespeare. The Broadway cast recording shows off the talent, the fun, the puns, and Easter eggs aplenty to tickle the fancy of any drama geek.

More to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoWe’re now deep into National Reading Group Month, and there’s still so much to discuss! Perhaps your group has already tackled all fifteen books suggested in Part One, and you are eager for a different take. Allow us to introduce five additional categories with titles guaranteed to bring out your opinionated side.

Contending with the Unimaginable

Emma Donoghue
Andy Weir


Solve the Mystery

Likeness book coverThe Likeness
Tana French
Cuckoos Calling book coverThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Galbraith
Zoë Ferraris


Challenge the Norm

Quiet book coverQuiet
Susan Cain
Half the Sky book coverHalf the Sky
Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Bryan Stevenson


Discussions in Translation

Elegance of the Hedgehog book coverThe Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
tr. Alison Anderson
The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
tr. Lucia Graves
Fredrik Backman
tr. Henning Koch


And the Award Goes To…

Salvage the Bones book coverSalvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward
Colum McCann


Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.

What to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoThe truth that “good books bring people together” is one of the founding principles of National Reading Group Month. Whether you have been involved with a book club for years or have been thinking of trying your first, there is no better time to explore the possibilities of a story ripe for discussion. Find your category below and celebrate with a new title that entertains, challenges, and inspires!


Fabulous for First Discussions

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society book coverThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Sandra Dallas


Never Tried Nonfiction?

Year of Yes book coverYear of Yes
Shonda Rhimes
Warren St. John


Looking for a Lighter Option

Crocodile on the Sandbank book coverCrocodile on the Sandbank
Elizabeth Peters
Laura Dave


Staff-Selected Superstars

Cover of The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans
Cristina Henríquez
Candice Millard


Not Afraid of Next-Level Reads

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Land of Love and Drowning book coverLand of Love and Drowning
Tiphanie Yanique
Kate Atkinson


UPDATE: Find more suggestions in Part Two of this series!

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.

Dyslexia in Fiction

dyslexia awareness month header

October is National Dyslexia Awareness month. Did you know that approximately 17% of the population has dyslexia? Throughout the month of October, we’ll be putting up displays featuring actors with dyslexia, authors with dyslexia, and dyslexia in fiction. Here are a few books to start with that feature characters with dyslexia. Make sure to check out one of our displays or ask us at the Fiction/AV/Teen desk for more suggestions!

MAggot Moon book cover

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell–who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright–sees things differently than the rest of the “train-track thinkers.” So when Standish and his only friend and neighbor, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big


Instructions for a Heatwave book cover


Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

When a recently retired family patriarch clears out his bank account and disappears during a sweltering summer in 1976, his three children converge on their mother’s home for the first time in years and track clues to an ancestral village in Ireland, where they uncover illuminating family secrets.


ahgottahandleonit book cover


Ahgottahandleonit by Donovan Mixon

Tim’s a dyslexic black kid on the mean streets of Newark. He wants to do what is right, but anger boils deep inside him. Despite everything, Tim wants his life to matter



Book summaries provided by publishers.

Staff Pick: Greetings from Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Dale from Research Services suggests Greeting from Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

Greetings from Utopia Park book coverGreetings from Utopia Park chronicles author Claire Hoffman’s personal experiences living and participating in the Transcendental Meditation movement. At age 5, Claire moves with her mother and brother to Fairfield, Iowa to join the followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This book is both the story of Claire’s childhood spent living in this community and a history of what Maharishi called the Global Headquarters of World Peace. Claire eventually rebels, moving away from the teachings of Transcendental Meditation, only to return later in life to examine and attempt to reconnect with her spiritual upbringing. If you have ever been curious about Transcendental Meditation and wanted to learn more about both the positive and negative aspects of this practice, you will find this book fascinating and enlightening.


Looking for something similar? Try one of these books!

Cover of Free Spirit Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid

Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid
by Joshua Safran
A mother and son head for the road to find a utopia they could call home

by Augusten Burroughs
 A memoir detailing the unusual childhood of a boy sent to live with his mother’s eccentric psychiatrist.


A Tale of Love and Darkness book coverA Tale of Love and Darkness
by Amos Oz
Chronicles the author’s childhood in 40’s and 50’s Jerusalem.
Trancendence healing and transformation through transcendental meditation book coverTranscendence: healing and transformation through transcendental meditation
by Norman E. Rosenthal
This book discusses the benefits of Transcendental Meditation through stories of both ordinary people and well-known artists.
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel book coverA Girl Named Zippy
by Haven Kimmel
 A memoir about growing up in small town Indiana.


Movies and TV: If You Like Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies DVD coverMaybe you were already a fan of the blockbuster novel by Liane Moriarty. Maybe you became swept up in the combination of critical acclaim and breakroom buzz when the TV adaptation first aired. Or maybe the eight Emmy wins, including for acting, directing, casting, music, and the top prize of Outstanding Limited Series broke down your defenses. One way or another, you’re now a fan.

Whether you have already binged the pitch-perfect Big Little Lies or are waiting patiently for your turn, you may be interested in related shows that offer variations on those same delicious appeals.

Top of the Lake DVD cover


Top of the Lake

Description: Obsessed with the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl near a freezing lake in New Zealand, a brave detective finds herself up against small-town secrets and a side of herself that was meticulously kept at bay.

Why This? Atmosphere! Both limited series lean in to the twisted and the dark beneath the surface. With complex, fascinating female characters, dynamic performances, and the exposure of sinister secrets in an insular town, you will be riveted.


Pretty Little Liars DVD cover

Pretty Little Liars

Description: Four friends band together against an anonymous foe who threatens to reveal their darkest secrets.

Why This? The similar title words are not the only reason this series is one of the most frequently mentioned watchalikes for Big Little Lies. Though the protagonists are younger and the machinations perhaps a bit soapier, the intrigue and drama inspire an equally obsessive viewing, especially as dangerous secrets threaten to come to light.


Broadchurch DVD cover



Description: Two strong yet compassionate detectives are brought together to solve the murder of an eleven year-old boy in a small coastal town.

Why This? Season one of this celebrated series ticks all the boxes: seaside setting, murder mystery, almost-too-close community, and rich layers of storytelling. As the increasingly twisted evidence is followed, the prejudices, grudges, and underbelly of the idyllic town become exposed with dire consequences. You might also watch for the magnificent performances, especially that of Olivia Colman, who is more than equal to the standouts of Big Little Lies.


Little ChildrenLittle Children DVD cover

Description: The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations in suburban Massachusetts.

Why This? This 2007 film is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, an author credited as a master of suburban noir. That means you can expect secrets behind closed doors of a seemingly benign neighborhood. Also, if you were interested in the parent roles of Big Little Lies, you will find parallels including the larger question of who might be misbehaving like little children, regardless of actual age.


RevengeRevenge DVD cover

Description: Wealth, beauty, and power define the residents of New York’s most exclusive community, but one woman will stop at nothing to exact revenge from those who ruined her father’s life.

Why This? The central character is presented as a newcomer to a wealthy beachside community. Not only does she navigate making new friends and learning whom she can trust, but she is also dealing with the aftershocks of a pivotal event in her past. Ring any bells? This is another series option for those who like shows that won’t let you go once you start.