November 1, 2013
New Novel Explores One Family’s Recession and Return with Humor and Grit
I am not usually a reader of romance novels, but Mary Flinn won me over with her debut novel The One, and after I fell in love with her characters, I followed them through four volumes. Now Flinn has published a new novel with completely new characters, and without the comforting romance feeling of her earlier books. Not that there isn’t some romance in this book, but The Nest is a bit grittier of a read, making me wonder whether everything would work out in the end for the characters, and it’s set in a more realistic and harder world than Flinn’s previous books. But that said, just when things seem to be bleak, Flinn reminds us of the positive and makes the reader laugh at unexpected moments, producing a cathartic effect overall in these pages.
Cherie Johnson is a high school English teacher about to retire when she finds out that her husband Dave has lost his job. At the same time, her oldest daughter, Hope, decides to move back home since she can’t find a teaching job and has just broken up with her boyfriend, Liam. Add to these difficulties that Dave and Cherie’s younger daughter, Wesley, is about to get married—where will the money come from?
Inspired by the economic downturn of recent years, the nationwide trend of adult children moving back home, and concerns about unemployment, The Nest does not offer easy solutions to these situations. The alternating point of view chapters—in Cherie and Hope’s voices—also allows for the characters’ personality conflicts to be presented. In fact, Cherie often feels put off by her husband, daughter, and even her mother-in-law. As for Hope, she suspects that Liam’s decision to go to Italy to paint also means he’s having an affair with the young woman who is supposedly going to help him promote his art, but Hope can’t get over her feelings about Liam, and if the opportunity for continuing the relationship should arise, she realizes she just might take it. In the meantime, she’s stuck working two jobs—in retail and as a bartender—to make ends meet, pay off her credit card debt, and hopefully, move out of her parents’ house.
And that mother-in-law. Toots, as Dave’s mom is nicknamed, is a bit of a rich bitch who has made it clear how disappointed she is by her son, especially when he tries to solve his unemployment situation by starting up a business selling fish at an open market. Neither Cherie nor Dave is about to ask Toots for a handout, but they also realize that she’s getting older so it’s time to bury the hatchet.
Through all these situations, Cherie manages to hold the family together, even when hot flashes and getting locked out of the house seem like they will get the better of her. I have to admit that reading this novel, I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. Was everything going to work out for these characters? Would they be able to make the tough decisions that would help them move on with their lives? Would they be able simply to get past their own personalities and fears to let good things come back into their lives? Don’t worry. It’s not all grim and tough. There are some wonderful heartfelt moments in the novel where the characters really come to see their lives in new ways as they ponder the directions their futures might take.
If you’ve read Flinn’s previous novels, get ready for something a little different. If you haven’t read the previous novels, The Nest is a good place to start. I think this novel is one of those turning points an author has, a sign that Flinn is growing as a novelist, expanding her characters and her fictional worlds so they come closer to the border of reality. I will be curious to see what comes next from her pen.
For more information about The Nest and all of Mary Flinn’s novels, visit www.TheOneNovel.com.
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. and award-winning author of The Best Place
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