Such a Fun Age
- Author: Kiley Reid
- Genre: Contemporary
- Publication Date: December 31, 2019
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
TRIGGER WARNING: sexism, racism
What happens when you do the right thing for the wrong reason?
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira goes public and unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” and the complicated reality of being a grown-up. It is a searing debut for our times.
Reading this book kind of felt like watching a major car accident happening in slow motion. But at the same time, I couldn’t stop reading. It addresses some major issues in both society and the lives of new adults, including class, race, health insurance coverage, feeling lost, figuring out what you want to do in life, and relationships.
Emira is a 25-year old Black babysitter for an affluent white family. After a situation at home occurs, Emira is asked to pick up 2-year-old Briar and bring her to a local upscale supermarket at 11pm on a Saturday night, where she ultimately ends up being accused of kidnapping. The whole thing is caught on film, and it’s the first of many incredibly uncomfortable scenes in the book.
While Alix, her boss, wants to help, Emira is wary and relies on her close group of girlfriends for support. While they’re all her age, they all seem to be figuring out what they want to do in life and actively working towards it, while Emira is kind of drifting around aimlessly, and not doing much about it.
“Despite the fact that she’d known since she was little that nursing was her passion, Zara never discredited Emira, or the fact that Emira had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.”
There’s a weird dynamic between Emira and Alix — there’s a difference in age, class, and on top of that, there’s racial issues that come into play, which are explored throughout the book. My perception of a lot of the characters changed significantly over the course of the book.
“Emira never hinted that she felt this way, because why would she, but Alix often felt that Emira saw her as a textbook rich white person, much in the same way that Alix saw many of the annoying Upper East Side moms that she and her girlfriends had always tried to avoid. But if Emira would only take a deeper look, if she gave Alix a chance, Alix knew that she would begin to think otherwise.”
I empathized with Emira a lot during the whole story, especially when she talked about what kept her working for the Chamberlains long after she should have left. I know I’ve stayed in jobs long past the expiration date because of how I felt when I did the job, rather than how I was treated AT the job:
“But there was something about the actual work, the practice of caring for a small unstructured person, that left Emira feeling smart and in control. There was the gratifying reflex of being good at your job, and even better was the delightful good fortune of having a job you wanted to be good at.”
I’ve never read a book that made me feel so uncomfortable and awkward so many times while reading it. It felt as though I was actually sitting in on the scenes with the characters, and to me, that is a hallmark of incredible writing. This was such an insightful and scathing look at our society and the relationships within it, and I was so impressed that this was a debut. I’ll definitely be watching for more books by Kiley Reid.
Categories: Book Review