SUCH A FUN AGE
BY KILEY REID
This is a funny, poignant debut novel about parenting, race and class. Reid’s writing has a fresh and insightful quality which exposes these topics with humour and truthfulness. Worthy of making the Booker longlist 2020 and your pile.
Alix has recently and reluctantly moved from her high profile, social media life as a feminist blogger in New York to Pennsylvania with her news presenter husband and two young girls. She employs Emira, a young black girl with seemingly little purpose in her life as her sitter, who forms a close bond with the eldest daughter Briar.
The story revolves around an incident in a late-night upmarket grocery store when Emira is confronted by the security guard for kidnapping the "white baby" and the incident is filmed by an eyewitness, Kelly Copeland. The repercussions of the evening change the dynamics of the relationship between Alix and Emira, particularly when Emira and Kelly start dating. A shared connection between Kelly and Alix is perhaps too much of a coincidence, but nevertheless gives rise to an excruciating and hilarious Thanksgiving Dinner from which everything quickly unravels.
Reid's writing carefully challenges race, privilege and class. She subtly condemns the likes of Alix and Kelly’s behaviour whilst at the same time recognising their willingness to try to empathise and understand Emira. The message of trying to force your own aspirations on someone else is both hilarious and heart-breaking and underneath it all, is the faultless love and strong bond Emira has with Briar. Briar was perhaps the Den’s favourite character. Reid captures this slightly difficult, extremely inquisitive and exhausting child who because she doesn’t necessarily fit in with Alix’s life and image is overlooked by her mother, but unconditionally loved and cared for by Emira.
Overall, the characters, particularly Alix, are rather too stereotypical, which is a shame, as the book would have been even more powerful if we could feel greater empathy with all the characters. But the dialogue is quick witted and Reid touches on these important topics without forcing the message.