Guest Post First Impressions: Debut author Esther Ehrlich on her audiobook NEST

Esther Ehrlich’s “stunning” debut, NEST, tells the moving and “achingly realistic” story of love and loss in 1970’s Cape Cod. An eleven-year-old bird-lover named Chirp copes with her mother’s illness and learns the redeeming power of friendship in this touching and historical audiobook. Author Esther Ehrlich shared her powerful reaction to hearing her story read aloud by Jenna Lamia for the first time:

Whew! What a lot of happy “firsts,” on the road to publishing Nest, my debut novel! I’ll never again experience my very first:

      • Email from a high-powered agent who wants to talk “in the next 20 minutes” about my manuscript, (I’d been waiting to hear from her for seven months…)
      • Phone call from a publisher (the fabulous Wendy Lamb at Penguin Random House) who’s spilling over with enthusiasm and stays on the phone with me for over an hour, wanting to talk, really talk, about Nest—who the characters are and why, and that scene in the third chapter when…
      • Author Esther Ehrlich

        Author Esther Ehrlich

      • Signing of a book contract. I was on a train. Yes, riding the Coast Starlight from San Luis Obispo to Berkeley, on vacation with my family. Talk about romantic.
      • Holding of my very first novel in my hands. (“Oh, it looks like a book! Oh, it smells like a book! The pages turn. The cover is gorgeous.”)
      • Starred review. I actually had no clue what a starred review meant so I went into my local bookstore and asked the woman behind the counter if she could please tell me how excited I should be.
      • Launch party. Family, friends, and strangers in a bookstore, celebrating!
      • Tears cried after reading a letter from a reader, a young man in his twenties who’d struggled through a difficult childhood, who said, “I wish I could go back in time and give a copy of the novel to my ten-year-old self…”

With all of these landmarks, you’d think it would have sunk in that I’d published my first novel. But somehow, I just didn’t “get it.” I felt in this weird state of limbo, like I was still waiting for something to happen, something to convince me that Nest was done, it was launched.

A few days after the audiobook of Nest arrived at my door, I decided to take myself on a solo writing retreat, hoping to jumpstart my next project. (A dear friend had offered her house to me while she was out-of-town). I began listening to the audiobook on the car ride and was amazed at how fresh the story felt, even though I knew it so well. Jenna Lamia’s gorgeous narration sucked me in and I gasped and teared up and laughed and sighed along with the characters.

On the last night of my writing retreat, I was sitting at the kitchen table, eating dinner by myself and listening to the final disc. When Jenna’s gentle, strong voice announced “We hope you enjoyed this unabridged production of Nest by Esther Ehrlich…” I began to weep. Finally, I could feel it. All of the joy and stress and beauty of creating something that hadn’t been there before. I had written this book, Nest, and it was out there in the world.

Author Esther Ehrlich


LISTEN TO A CLIP of NEST read by Jenna Lamia:

Praise for NEST:

“Narrator Jenna Lamia’s vivid performance contributes to the characterizations, particularly Chirp’s emotional journey, without sacrificing intimacy. Set in the early 1970s, this is technically historical fiction, but it will appeal to any listener who enjoys realistic portrayals of family life.”—AudioFile

The author’s rich characterization brings listeners into Chirp’s world and breaks their hearts. Narrator Jenna Lamia…adds a level of passion…Those who enjoyed Jennifer Holm’s Turtle in Paradise will enjoy meeting Chirp.”—School Library Journal (audio review)

★ “A stunning debut, with lyrical prose and superbly developed characters, this novel is an emotional roller coaster that effectively conveys a family’s visceral tragedy. At times tear inducing, the narrative is also vibrantly alive.”—School Library Journal, starred review (book review)

★ “First-time author Ehrlich’s achingly realistic depiction of family love and loss… Allusions to songs and trends of the era and references to Chirp’s strong Jewish heritage accentuate and ground the story.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “Ehrlich’s ability to get inside Chirp’s head, to create beautifully rounded characters and to flesh out details of life for this Jewish family in 1972 Cape Cod adds to the overall realism…A poignant, insightful story of family crisis and the healing power of friendship.”—Kirkus, starred review

“A heartfelt debut, marked by its gentle strength and positive message of family and friendship, particularly in the face of tragedy. Chirp proves a memorable heroine who will settle comfortably in the birdhouse in your soul.”—Booklist

ALA 2015 Notable Children’s Book
School Library Journal Best Books of 2014
Amazon Best Children’s Books of 2014
2014 Kids’ Indie Next List

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