Oh, this book. Nest by Esther Ehrlich follows Naomi, better known as Chirp, as she attempts to navigate what is likely to be the most difficult year of her young life. At only eleven-years-old, Chirp must face the devastating illness of her beloved mother. Chirp's mother, Hannah is a talented dancer, but when her leg begins to drag everyone knows something serious is wrong. It is the 1970s and much isn't known about Multiple Sclerosis which is the diagnosis that Hannah finally receives. She is heartbroken and falls into a deep depression. Chirp does her best to cope with the changes in her home and spends her days bird watching at the pond near her home on Cape Cod. Chirp knows just about everything about the birds that visit her area, but her favorite is the elusive Red-Throated Loon.
This book covers topics that some might think are too difficult or painful for a middle grade reader, but that is what I think is important about it. So often we minimize what our children understand about the world around us. We protect them as best we can, as is right, but they see. They know. And so we must help them understand. When Chirp talks about her mother's depression, she is explaining it to the reader as well as to herself:
...her depression is chronic, which means it will never completely go away.
Chirp is afraid, but she is reluctant to say anything that might make her mother feel worse and so she keeps quiet.
I fill up the room with my haaaa so there's no room for anything else.
When things get even harder for Chirp, she retreats to her room and the only safe feeling she can imagine. She builds herself a nest from all her bedding and clothes, just like the birds she loves do.
A nest should be well constructed. It should keep you warm even when there are strong gusts or a downpour. It can't just fall apart. It should be as safe as possible from predators.
Isn't this what we all want from our home- a safe, warm nest?
The prose in this novel is beautifully written. Right away in chapter one we get this lovely description:
The air's already thick and warm, even though the sun's still just a spritz of light in the pitch pines and scrub oaks.
And that wonderful writing continues through the entire novel. I really enjoyed this book. I think the subject matter is very important. It is touching and heartrending and beautiful.
*I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.