Originally published: January 2020 (Paperback December 2020)
Author: Kiley Reid
Published by: Bloomsbury
Length: 320 pages
Reading dates: 15-20 March 2021
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket 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 it 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 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,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
I’d been curious about Such a Fun Age for a while so when Adventures with Words hosted a readalong over on Instagram I jumped on board.
The book begins when a young black woman Emira is called away from a party to help out the couple she childminds for. They’ve had some windows broken by vandals and want their lively and inquisitive young daughter Briar out of the house before the police arrive. At a loss of what do with a toddler late at night, she takes Briar to a local supermarket, where she is accused by a security guard of kidnapping Briar. Emira is indignant, angry and a little bit frightened but holds her own against the security guard until Briar’s father arrives to sort it out. The whole incident is filmed by a Kelley, a professional young white man who suggests Emira share the video but she isn’t interested in the attention it will cause.
Alix is horrified this has happened to Emira and is intent on trying to be friends with her, despite their very different backgrounds. Emira is a bit bemused by this but loves adores Briar and loves working as a childminder despite the fact she has no medical benefits, it is not a long term career prospect.
I really enjoyed Such a Fun Age and there was so much to think about. I was interested in Alix’s intentions in trying to befriend Emira – part of me thought she was desperate to show Emira (and the outside world) how very much not racist she is but I also think she is lonely as a new mum with her friends in New York and values the wonderful job Emira does looking after Briar.
Another character I found interesting was Kelley. He is kind and stands up for Emira in the grocery store and is adamant she should share her story. They bump into each other again a few weeks after the incident and they start a relationship. When they turn up as a couple to the Chamberlain’s Thanksgiving dinner, Alix is shocked to recognise Kelley as her old high school boyfriend who dumped her when she called the police on some of his black friends, changing the course of their lives. Alix is sure Kelley is guilty of racial fetishism – he surrounds himself with black friends (and has done since high school) and she is sure he is only interested in Emira because of her skin colour.
A great book with themes of racism and privilege it gave me lots to think about. There were some great characters but a special shout out to the Chamberlain’s little girl Briar – she is sweet, full of questions and funny and I loved the relationship she had with Emira. Highly recommended!
About the author:
Kiley Reid (born 1984) is an American novelist. She is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was the recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Such A Fun Age is her first novel.