Nest by Esther Ehrlich is a middle grade book that packs a punch. If you just go based off the cover, you may expect something that is light-hearted. This book has its light moments but also deals with real life issues in such a heartfelt and compelling way. I really was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.
The main character is an eleven year old Jewish girl who goes by the name Chirp who lives with her parents and her older sister Rachel during the turbulent Nixon era. Chirp enjoys listening to music, watching birds, and dancing. Everything in her life is going as expected until her mother suddenly falls ill and is diagnosed with MS. This diagnosis impacts everything about her life as each of them try to cope with the changes in their lives.
First of all, I just feel the need commend the author Esther Ehrlich for writing a story that is willing to “go there”. This books tackles chronic illness, mental health, grief, anger, grief, trauma and abuse. And yes that seems like alot but it never feels forced. It is all presented in a natural and lyrical type of way. I especially appreciated the way that the mother’s MS is depicted and that the story delves into the mental health aspect of chronic illness. There is a darker side to chronic health issues which can make an individual feel as if they and everyone else around them would be better off with out them. The fact that Nest tackled this issue and gives it room to breath is just so applause worthy.
Chirp is such a vibrant character. She’s a dreamer and has a strong sense of adventure. She has a voice for her confusion, anger and grief. While there is darkness in the Nest, the character of Chirp provides some light. I really enjoyed her love and knowledge of birds; and the various 70s popular culture references that were spread throughout. I also enjoyed her friendship with the neighbor boy Joey who comes from a home of “uncertain circumstances”. They lift each other up during the more difficult times and create a budding and vibrant connection. My heart went out to both characters as they tried to configure what was going on in each of their lives.
All in all, Nest is a beautiful book however, it is not a book that should be taken lightly. While marketed for middle grade, I think the audience should be aware of the fact that the appearance of the light-hearted cover can be very deceiving. Like I said, this book tackles alot of complicated situations and issues and because of this it may be better presented to a more mature audience. Yet within the sadness of these pages there is also joy – there is also life.
Rating: 4 Stars