One would think a girl on Cape Cod in the Nixon era, nicknamed Chirp for her bird-watching hobby, would be a set up for a lighthearted nature-experiencing life. Instead, in Nest, a debut novel by Esther Ehrlich, two truths emerge. Suicide is only permanent for the perpetrator, and depression is an equal opportunity trouble, striking youth as well as adults.
Chirp watches her dancer mother lose her skills to muscular sclerosis and her spirit to depression. Her psychiatrist father is at a loss to help. Chirp’s Jewish heritage, her difficult older sister Rachel, the neglected and/or abused neighbor Joey, and her birding form warp ribbons while normal middle school ordeals form the woof in this delightfully woven story.
When life overwhelms her, Chirp takes a lesson from the birds and builds a nest for retreat in her room. She makes hers with her pillow, encircled by her clothes and blankets. Her attempt to fly from that nest with Joey amps up the danger.
In spite of its subjects, I didn’t find this a sad book overall. The realism in its dealing with suicide, depression, and even Joey’s dysfunctional family is tempered with fun. Yet, I anticipated throughout that Chirp was going to find her song again. She was just that kind of girl. The characters come alive, and the story line is engaging. I recommend it for pleasure reading at any age or for an adult and child to read simultaneously and follow with discussion.
Bonus: Check out the author website at www.estherehrlich.com for background about the author and beautiful pictures of some of the birds Chirp would have seen.