A funny and poignant debut novel about parenting, racism and class. Reid’s writing has a fresh and insightful quality which exposes these issues with humour and truthfulness.

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SUCH A FUN AGE

BY KILEY REID

305 pages

This is a funny, poignant debut novel about parenting, racism and class. Reid’s writing has a fresh and insightful quality which exposes these issues with humour and truthfulness.

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. One night when Alix has an emergency she calls on Emira to help out.

Emira collects Briar and takes her to their late-night supermarket where she is confronted by the security guard for kidnapping the “white baby.” An eyewitness films the incident and emails the footage to a reluctant Emira saying she could use it to her advantage. Alix, feeling guilty about Emira’s treatment, tries to make things up to her, but the more she tries, the more she seems to misunderstand Emira. When the two of them discover a shared connection through Kelly, which results in an excruciating Thanksgiving Dinner and impulsive confrontation, everything quickly unravels.

Reid carefully nuances the racism, subtleing condemning 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, eccentric, 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 issues without forcing the message.

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