- Alisa Williams
The Nesting by C.J. Cooke – Book Review
Lexi Ellis, who struggles with mental illness that includes depression and hallucinations, takes a job as a nanny under false pretenses for a wealthy widower’s two young children. His wife died under mysterious circumstances, allegedly by her own hand, but the eldest daughter’s talk of a “sad lady” and other mysterious happenings convince Lexi something more is at play.
This was an entertaining, albeit superficial read. It has some great gothic elements and was equal parts suspenseful and creepy at times. Lexi is a wholly unreliable narrator which kept me off balance in a good way.
That said, it’s not a great mystery by any means (the whodunnit was pretty obvious), and overall, the book seemed to want to tackle too many things. When I started reading, I thought it would dive deeply into mental illness – the stigma surrounding it, the difficulty in seeking and finding treatment, the road to healing and managing the day-to-day for someone with this particular struggle – but no.
Though Lexi’s mental illness is used as the catalyst for the desperate circumstances she finds herself in at the beginning of the book, for the remaining chapters it is simply used as a plot device to make you distrust her ability to discern reality as events unfold. Using mental illness in this way felt disingenuous and there was no closure there – everything was wrapped up with a neat little bow by the end of the book, in a completely unrealistic way.
The book also seemed to want to tackle climate change, which could have made for a really interesting discourse, but alas, this too was simply used as a plot device to further the story, which was a strange mix of domestic suspense and supernatural thriller. And again, it didn’t seem to know which it wanted to be, so it just blended the two together and called it a day.
Lastly, I’ll say that I’m really over the trope of main characters who hate children taking jobs as nannies under false pretenses. This is the second book I've read recently with that particular plot device (the first being The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware), and I’m over it. This annoyance is entirely personal, but I just can’t get over how insufferable I find it. I worked at a daycare for years to support myself through school, and I can not say it enough: if you don’t like kids, don’t work with kids! And having a main character who literally sees a job she has absolutely no qualifications for, and who says, “well I don’t like kids and have no experience with them, but how hard could it be?” makes me want to tear my hair out. It makes the main character instantly and irredeemably unlikeable for me. But, like I said, that’s just a personal pet peeve.
Overall, the book kept me turning the pages despite some obvious flaws that I rolled my eyes through. It’s an entertaining, cotton candy-esque read, and if you like intriguing suspense where everything gets wrapped up nicely at the end, then you’ll probably enjoy this book.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Alisa Williams is the managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org. She blogs at alisawilliamswrites.com, tweets at @AWWritesStories, and bookstagrams at @AllyWritesStories.
Book cover image courtesy of Berkley Publishing Group.