For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
I received an advanced reading copy of NEST from Net Galley for review. It is set to be released on September 9th, 2014.
Nest is a Vietnam era story following a glimpse into the life of 11 year old avid bird watcher Naomi "Chirp" Orenstein. Chirp seems to have a good, solid childhood going, navigating through life with a vivacious dancer mother, a more straitlaced psychiatrist father, and of course the everyday mild tiffs with her older sister, Rachel. Then the news comes that the problem her mother has been having with one of her legs may actually be the beginnings of multiple sclerosis. With that one diagnosis, Chirp's life is changed forever. Chirp's mother develops such severe depression that she is put into a mental institution for a time, loaded up on meds to the point where she can hardly recognize her family when they visit. Chirp also finds herself struggling with her father's emotional absence, school bullying because she's Jewish, her sister spending less and less time with her, leaving Chirp feeling a little lost and lonely in her little world. She finds a small blessing in the friendship of boy-next-door, Joey (who also comes to her defense when his brothers join in in the bullying of Chirp) -- to one brother saying, "Shut up about stuff you don't understand." Everyone needs a least one good friend like that. :-) But even there, something happens that puts a rift between this budding friendship.
I liked this book overall, but it was SOO sad! I enjoyed the writing for the most part, though the timeline of the story seems to jump around a lot before settling into a comfortable chronological path.The grim tone seemed relentless, which makes me wonder about the suggested age of reader for this book -- ages 8 to 12. To me anyway, the topics in this novel seem pretty heavy for that age group. There's topics of depression / depression being treated with electroconvulsive (electroshock) therapy, terminal illness, suicide, a description that sounded like marijuana use to me -- though not actually stated as such, stress-related OCD behaviors. There's mild cursing and the use of the term "lezzies". I just wonder how many parents are going to want to have discussions about these things with their young readers.
I think the relationship I liked best was that between sisters Chirp & Rachel. It seemed the most real. It had it's difficulties and tensions, but also had very sweet moments. I was reminded of the sister relationship in the novel Tell The Wolves I'm Home. The relationship between Chirp and her mother, especially as the mother's illness progresses, also becomes really touching, though tinged with moments of such sadness.
"When you were born, I swore that you'd have an easier path than me. My mother caused me so much pain, and sometimes I still feel like it's swallowing me up. I swore that, for you, it would be different. And now... " Mom takes a breath. " And now..." She slowly pushes each word out like it's stuck in her mouth. "You--have---a---sick---mother."She folds me back into her arms. My cheek's against her stomach. She's moaning now, a sweet, quiet sound like a mourning dove. I hold Mom tighter. I coooo my own soft bird sound. What else does Mom want me to do?
The novel as a whole has its entertaining moments, but I did find my interest waning a number of times, the pace being a little slow and misery-heavy throughout.