Nest by Inga Simpson

‘There was more than one hazard in returning to the town where you grew up.’

Jen Vogel, an artist and once a teacher, has returned to the place where she grew up. Her mother has recently died, and her long-term relationship has ended. Jen is returning to a place of safety, a nest. She lives alone in a secluded house, watching and drawing the birds around her and tending the semi-tropical garden around her home. Jen’s most regular interaction is with Henry, a high school student and talented artist to whom she is giving drawing lessons.

But when Caitlin, a girl in Henry’s class goes missing, Jen is drawn out of her current safe nest into the past. Nearly forty years earlier, when Jen was Henry’s age, her best friend Michael went missing, and her father left. When Caitlin goes missing, people are reminded of the past, and speculate about what happened and why. Jen watches and draws the birds around her, and tension builds.

Adding to this tension, of recent and past disappearances, is waiting for the summer rain. Rain that tantalises and threatens, creating an oppressive atmosphere before finally arriving.

What is ‘Nest’ about? Answers about those who are missing is one aspect but to me it is more about revisiting the past and coming to terms with the past in order to move into the future. 

I enjoyed this novel, with its quiet reflective pace. Ms Simpson brings Jen and her environment to life.

‘Sometimes it’s not your drawing that’s the problem, but your connection with the subject,’ she said. ‘There’s a story there, you just have to find it.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith