Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

*spoiler alert*
Eleven-year-old Naomi "Chirp" Oreinstein lives in Cape Cod with her sister and father when they discover that her mother has a serious disease. Unable to cope with the loss of a career, her mother develops severe depression and is hospitalized. Set in the 1972, treatment involves electricity and it is apparent that the doctors don't know much about depression. As she deals with the family changes she makes friends with her neighbor and classmate, Joey, who also has issues at home with an angry father and mean brothers.

This book tackles the difficult topic of depression and suicide with a subplot that involves physical abuse. The author succeeds in some parts presenting the issues and fails in others. There's a social stigma with mental illness and while the author captures the pain, grief, and denial, she doesn't show how it is a disease of the brain that causes death if treatment is unsuccessful or untreated. I wanted some of the myths exposed through classmates or medical professionals. There are so many misconceptions about suicide and rather than mention them they are omitted. Instead the family hides the fact and doesn't really talk about it. Even when Chirp is with her friend, Joey, she doesn't talk about her mother's actions. The result is no enlightenment on mental illness as a disease. No adult has any insightful talk that helps her deal with this topic. No counselor. Nothing. The family would want answers considering the mother was getting treatment. Why did this happen? I really wished a medical person was inserted in the text to give knowledge on the disease. As is, people just see a child's grief and anger. Even an Author's Note that talks about SAVE foundation or other facts would have been good.

Miss Gallagher is a teacher that shames kids and has no classroom management. She's a pathetic teacher that uses her authority to abuse kids. Being an educator, I hate this stereotyped teacher. They exist but are the minority. And it is a stereotype that has become cliched. There are so many different personalities and I like when the complexity of humans is captured creating 3-dimensional characters. This teacher ends up being flat. Then there is Joey. He is abused by his father and no one talks about it, even though Chirp's father is a psychiatrist and required by law to report it to authorities. Wouldn't he see a red flag with Joey when picking the kids up? Chirp is portrayed as flighty and clueless, but as a sixth grader wouldn't she see the marks on Joey's face from getting hit?

The author does a great job creating a loving family unit which is why I really thought the father would discuss with Chirp the death of the mom. He does with the older sister and Chirp is portrayed as being in denial, but I would have thought he'd force the issue as he forces them to have family meetings. Chirp's love of birds and tie-ins with dancing are unique and add depth to her character. The plot is somewhat slow at the start but goes out with a bang.

3 Smileys

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