You might’ve already heard of Such a Fun Age – it’s everywhere, including the first book of 2020 for Reese Witherspoon’s book club. So is it worth the hype?
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. Despite being dragged away from her beloved Manhattan to live in Philadelphia for her husband Peter’s work, Alix has made the most of it, and the most of herself, becoming a blogger and motivational speaker. She went from not to hot overnight after a clip of her breastfeeding her daughter while she spoke at a conference went viral. She’s now busy, so hires a babysitter, Emira.
Emira Tucker is twenty-five, aimless, and broke, about to lose her family’s health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. But she likes babysitting Alix’s older daughter, the unusual toddler Briar.
The book opens with Emira at a friend’s party. She’s dolled up and a few drinks down. It’s late at night and Alix calls her, asking for her to mind Briar for a while. Someone has smashed a window and Alix doesn’t want Briar to see the police at their home. Emira needs the money, so finds herself wandering around a high-end supermarket with Briar late at night, filling in time before taking her home.
But things turn disturbing when 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 Kelley films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. She contacts Peter who comes to the store to address the situation.
Alix resolves to make things right. But when the video of Emira 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.
A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. It’s so refreshing to read a story where the white woman doesn’t somehow save the black woman, and where things are not so black and white.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
Reid’s breezy writing and polished dialogue means this page-turner can be quickly devoured without realising until later the importance of the piece. Reid’s writing is incredibly good and shows a depth of maturity, while she is never heavy handed as she tackles complex issues around race, class and privilege. This is Kiley Reid’s debut and it’s a fantastic one – a powerhouse read and perfect start to the year for me with this fabulous novel.