Book Review: ‘Nest’ by Lynne Nugent


By Lynne Nugent -- The Florida Review

  • 224

As the world shuts down and ultimately starts to reopen, Iowa City circles its figurative wagons, our institutions working to keep local artists and retailers engaged.

Little Village reaches out for book reviews.

Prairie Lights delivers books for reviewers right to their doors.

I have the privilege of reading Nest, a series of heartfelt essays about life and parenting from Lynne Nugent, editor of The Iowa Review.

Nest is a thin tome, “pecked out,” the author says, “with one finger on an iPhone cradled in my hand while a baby slept against my other side.” Her essays are very personal, but they speak to a broader perspective of motherhood.

My own days of having a child fall asleep while nursing are long gone, but well do I remember the way that baby’s entire demeanor would change after they latched on and began to soothe, as described in the essay “the suck.” Nursing a baby is, as Nugent says, “exquisitely boring,” but also a strong act of physical presence and love for your infant.

Although the consuming job of mothering her two sons is the overarching theme of the book, Nugent also includes essays about herself in her roles outside that of mom: grieving daughter (“my grief is a student of the humanities”); woman whose husband has a medical condition (“the get-out-of-jail free card”); Korean language learner (“the year of language learning”). In all of these, too, she strives to make connections with others, reveling in relationships — with her departed father, her spouse, her Korean mother.

Nugent has a disconcerting way of referring to her children as “A.” and “D.” and her husband as “K.” Often, authors don’t use actual names of family members due to privacy concerns. But if this is her plan, it is negated by the fact that she mentions Alasdair, Damian and Kembrew in her acknowledgements.

The essays were written over a period of time and are not necessarily ordered, which means that the reader is not always sure which child she means in each essay. My mind likes to put things in order, so I see this as a drawback — but it is true that parenting, and writing, are not always straight and chronological lines.

Nugent’s essays speak to the urgency of early motherhood: the fear that if she dies today her child will not remember her (“the 781 days”); the to-do list that’s never complete (“running late”); the promises to oneself that seem both easy and impossible to keep (“lines from a journal I kept after my son was born and i promised myself i would write at least one line a day”). She writes beautifully of this time in a parent’s life, the early baby and toddlerhood days when years rush by but days last forever. It’s a joy to linger in these moments, to remember those endorphin-soaked early motherhood days.

It’s also a blessing to find something brief to engage the mind, a chapbook easily consumed even with COVID-brain — or new-mommy brain.

Nest is a collection that wants to be shared. I found myself wondering which friend or new mother would most appreciate its words, the evocation of memories of the times when we have protected our own children in our nests.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 282.


Subscribe for daily news updates from Little Village


  • 224
Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »


Iowa City Book Festival

Oct. 18-24

A celebration of books, writing and ideas

Find Out More


Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.


$10/mo or $120/year
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.


$20/mo or $240/year
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.


$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW) connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.