Such a Fun Age
SUCH A FUN AGE is a smartly conceived and cleverly worded novel about race relations. The main characters are two women: Alix Chamberlain, who is white and wealthy, and Emira Tucker, who is black and strapped for cash. Emira, a college graduate, has never quite found her calling; to pay the rent, she is working two jobs, one as a part-time typist, the other as a baby sitter for Alix’s three-year-old daughter.
One Saturday night, Alix calls Emira in the midst of a family emergency and begs her to come take the toddler out of the house for a little while. Reluctant to leave the party she’s at with friends but wanting to help, Emira Ubers straight to the Chamberlain home, and, as Alix has asked, takes the little girl, Briar, to a local market to buy snacks that she knows the child loves. Picture it. Emira is dressed to the nines, buying fast food late on a Saturday night, holding a white child.
In a gross case of racial profiling, Emira is accused by a customer and a security guard, both white, of kidnapping the child. As the story progresses, the ramifications of this incident snake through an increasingly complex web.
This is Kiley Reid’s debut novel, and she clearly knows about what she writes. Her portrayal of Emira as a young black woman doing her best to succeed is spot-on. For that reason, I can forgive her for making Alix a stereotypically shallow Internet-influencer-wannabe. I didn’t care for Alix. I did care for Emira. I assume the author planned this.
SUCH A FUN AGE is about more than race. It’s about mothering and the love a child needs. It’s about the sway of friends. It’s about a woman who doesn’t quite meet the expectations of her family. It’s about honesty and responsibility. It’s about love and obsession. Mostly, it’s about different people seeing the world through different eyes, which brings us back to the issue of race.
One caveat. Ms. Reid tells her story almost entirely in dialogue – generally a good thing. Here, I found the repartee tiring at times – too cute, too witty, to lonnnnnng. It could have been edited.
That said, I’ll be recommending SUCH A FUN AGE to my book group. There’s a lot to think about here.