In her debut novel, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney tells the story of the four Plumb siblings. Their father established a family trust fund before he passed and the adult siblings have allowed their anticipation of wealth to influence their life decisions.
In the prologue, the handsome but irresponsible son Leo abandons his wife at his cousin’s wedding and seduces a waitress. She is injured when Leo totals his car while canoodling behind the wheel. As the trustee, the children’s mother decides to use the majority of the Nest (the endearing term the children use to refer to the trust fund) to pay for and mitigate Leo’s legal problems. The Nest is a family pot trust for the benefit of all four siblings and the type of trust where the trustee has the discretion to spend as much or as little as they decide on each child. The remaining funds in the Nest are to be distributed equally to the four children when the youngest child, Melody, turns age 40. Leo’s calamity happens just a few months before Melody’s birthday, so there are little funds left over to distribute to the other three children.
Having “counted their chickens before they were hatched”, each child is frantic and has to face head on the choices they have made while waiting for their inheritance. Resolution of financial issues and intense interfamily drama provides plenty of conflict for a good read and also provides some meaningful lessons on why counting on an inheritance to solve your problems is never a good idea.
Lesson 1: Inherited wealth can squash ambition. Why bother trying when you can live a comfortable life on inherited money?
Lesson 2: People change their mind as to who should inherit their money; you may be left with nothing.
Lesson 3: You may not inherit as much as you are counting on. Your parents may have less than you think or may have significant financial needs later in life.
Lesson 4: Siblings can interfere; and your parents may give it all to the “needy” sibling.
Lesson 5: You may have to be nice to those who might not be so kind to you in return.
Research has found that there is a stronger relationship between earned income and happiness than inherited wealth and happiness. I enjoyed the book and its lesson: while a gift from heaven is certainly nice, one shouldn’t quit their day job.