Nest is the heartwarming and heartbreaking story following the life of Chirp, or Naomi (her given name). Chirp is in love with birds, and wakes up early each weekend to hopefully see a rare glimpse of the red-throated loon. She has a (mostly) loving teenage sister, Rachel, a sometimes annoying physiatrist father (he likes to ask his children if there is anything happening, and if they need help, they can always come talk to him about it. He is always there for them), Sy, and her dancer mother. Her mom, Hannah, works at a dance company in their town, and she lives for dancing. She has a long, willowy frame, and beautiful, sweeping brown hair. Lately she has not been getting to go to her dance company, because her leg has been having problems.
Then, the doctor tells them that her mom probably has multiple sclerosis. MS is a disease where an abnormal response to the nerves leads to the immune system attacking the nerve fibres, and the protective sheath around it, called myelin. When any part of the myelin or nerve is injured, the nerve impulses going to the brain are disrupted, and any number of things can happen after that. Chirp’s mother has been having depression, walking problems, tiredness, and mood changes. Every single one of these are symptoms of MS, and she and her family are devastated.
As her mother is getting sicker and sicker, Chirp has problems of her own. She has no real friends, and 6th grade is a big step. The brothers of a maybe-friend Joey tease her, and when she grows closer with him, she realizes that he has family problems of his own. His mother is cowardly, and his father beats him and his brothers.
Then one day, Chirp comes home from school and can’t find her mom. Rachel tells her that her mom took a fall. Her father found her and brought her to the hospital. But not any hospital. The best one in the area, the mental and physical hospital in Boston.
Days go by, and finally Thanksgiving arrives. Instead of going to their grandparents house like normal, they go to the mental hospital with a freshly baked meringue pie and two smuggled-in clam strips. They are ready to see their beautiful mom, have her lemon and lavender scent fill the room, and to have her say, let’s get home. Chirp, will you help me pick lilacs?
No. Her mother is grey and depressed, and smells of bleach. She doesn’t want to see them any longer than five minutes.
They drive home, stunned, but then, a couple days later, her father says they have found a possible cure. They are very excited, but then Chirp’s father tells her that they will have to use a small electrocution, and the only side effects might be a tiny bit of memory loss, a day or two. Rachel freaks and refuses to let their father agree. He does let the doctors do it, and then they come home from school. Their mother is there. She is perfect. Almost. Some things are wrong. Suddenly she is obsessed with cleaning, and making lists. Then Rachel asks her if she liked the lemon meringue pie they made her, and she doesn’t remember. Before the MS hit her, she would go out with Chirp to see the spring emerge. Now, she says that it hurts her eyes.
‘ “Oh, my God,” Mom says. She covers her face with her hands. She doesn’t remember. She doesn’t remember us giving her the pie. “Some memory loss isn’t uncommon after all shes been through.” Dad says… “I’m so sorry, girls,” Mom says. Now shes crying… My mouth feels gross, like I’ve been swallowing marsh water.’ pg. 208
Everything seems to be alright, but one day her father comes into school and tells her to come with him. Her mother left a note on the counter, that she didn’t want to make this hard on them, but she couldn’t live like this, so she was sorry and she was at the pond. Her mother died, committing suicide right after her family got her back from her death-like state of depression.
Days after the funeral, Chirp sees Joey in front of her house. He says they can go “away”, so away they go. First they go to the old broken down house that Joey goes to when he is angry, then they go to Boston on a bus to see the Swan Boats.
Then what they did catches up to them, and they call Chirp’s dad. He picks them up, and they go home.