Hello and welcome to The Reading Room, where Haley and I will share our thoughts on books we’ve recently read! Today we are reviewing Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. We received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review purpose, all opinions are our own and do not reflect the thoughts or beliefs of the publisher or author.
Such a Fun Age is a novel that explores race from multiple perspectives. Told from the viewpoint of Alix Chamberlain, a mother and social media brand-leader, and her nanny Emira Tucker, Reid explores how well-meaning people can do all the wrong things when we don’t take the time to fully know one another.
About the Book
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All expressed opinions are my own and do not reflect any stance or position held by the author or publisher. This did not affect my rating or review in any way.Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
on December 31, 2019
A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.
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 loved this book, but definitely went in without much of an idea what to expect. The part mentioned in the blurb - where Emira is stopped by police while at the grocery store with the young (white) girl who she babysits - is a catalyst for the action, but is not a major part of the book itself. At its base, this novel is a compulsively readable commentary on the well-meaning white savior who wants to “help” and “protect” and “advise” the (in their minds) poor, misguided black character.
For a book that is about something so deep and multi-layered, it was an extremely fast and enjoyable read; in fact, I flew through this novel in an afternoon. I loved and hated all the characters in turns — they were extremely well-written, layered characters. Some parts were so incredibly awkward I had to put the book down for a few minutes to take some deep breaths. The plot was simple enough to get into, but the underlying messages about racism and privilege and feminism were so nuanced that I find myself still thinking about them for days after reading the novel.
The one criticism I have is that I think this book would be even more effective if Alix was a little more sympathetic. I think that we tend to have this picture of racist people as “other” and think “oh, I would *never* be like that”. Alix here is a girl who has grown up rich and is honestly a snob. She develops a weird obsession with Emira and proving how good she is through helping her. We learn a lot about her childhood and family life, and not much of it was something I could connect with. At times she is even portrayed as a bad mother, which I think hurt the narrative in the long run. It could have been even stronger if Alix had been able to engender a bit more compassion from the reader rather than so clearly being a pretty terrible person, at least in my view.
What About You?
Have you read this book? Did you like it as much as I did? I can’t wait to chat about it with you!