“There’s no place like home.”
It’s rare for books to actually live up to their comp titles, but Nestlings truly is the perfect mash-up of Rosemary’s Baby meets Salem’s Lot! And at the same time, it’s so much more than that. This bloody terrific story will sink its teeth into you and take you on a wild emotional rollercoaster that will leave you completely drained by the end.
The story starts out rather mundane, with two mentally spiralling first-time parents desperately grasping onto a new beacon of hope after winning a housing lottery in NYC. However, things quickly take a darker turn when the fancy appartment building and its enigmatic inhabitants turn out to be a lot less glamourous than their reputation would have you believe.
And yes, that’s literally all you need to know. I went into Nestlings completely blind and I honestly think that is the best way to consume this story. You see, Cassidy just knows how to establish a claustrophobic atmosphere and build up the dread and suspense in a way that will put a trance on you. So even though this narrative is quite character-driven and slow-burn, it still somehow has that addictive ‘just one more chapter’ quality that will keep you in a chokehold from start to finish.
I personally also immediately latched onto Ana and Reid, even though they are definitely not the most likeable people and their flaws are on full display. We spend a lot of time with them just being in their heads, and their paranoia, desperation, and fear were all depicted so terrifyingly well. Because we get to read from both of their perspectives, we really get a good understanding of their complicated dynamic and their complex feelings for each other and their daughter. They are constantly tip-toeing around each other’s feelings and there’s a certain claustrophobic vibe to their entire relationship that only added to the tension and suspense of the story.
On top of that, I really appreciated the authentic and painfully realistic disability representation. Ana’s traumatic birth experience, which has left her in a wheelchair, was honestly the true horror of the story to me. The mental and physical toll that this event has taken on her and the people around her is explored in such a gutwrenching way, and that really made this story hit harder than I had anticipated.
Yet most of all, I loved how Ana isn’t written as a character to be pitied. Yes, she might be in a wheelchair now, but you better bet she’s still more than ready to grab life by the balls.
Now, I think I preferred the build-up to the horror more than the actual revelations we got, but there’s no denying that the twists and turns were riveting. I especially enjoyed how the horror elements were so intricately tied together with the themes of parenthood, elitism, and Jewish identity. Cassidy talks in his afterword about his own life experiences that inspired his writing here, and that only made this story hit all the harder. Yet even without that afterword, it is evident how personal this story and how much heart and soul was poured into its creation, as the raw emotions just bleed through the pages of this novel.
I’ve been looking for the right type of horror that actually unsettles me, and I think Nat Cassidy might just be the author for me. His emotionally rich character work is impeccable, the suspense is riveting, the claustrophobic atmosphere is enthralling, and the horror elements are introduced in such a masterfully unsettling yet somehow believable way that will just raise the hairs on your neck and leave its mark on you, whether you like it or not.
All in all, I had a blast with this story and I will definitely be checking out more by Cassidy in the future. If you like your haunted house/supernatural horror to be character-driven, atmospheric, suspenseful, and oozing with complicated raw human emotions, then Nestlings is the book for you.