Less than a month into 2023 and I think I’ve already found my favorite of the year. If you think that’s a little premature, I recommend you read ‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid. This book has great characters, a solid plot, and smooth language. It also tackles an important issue that needs to be talked about more. Reid’s debut novel is fun and satisfying.
The story starts with Emira Tucker, a college graduate in her mid-20s, being summoned to take three-year-old Briar, the child she babysits, to the nearby grocery store at 11 pm while the Chamberlains deal with a domestic emergency. Another shopper gets “concerned” about the child’s safety at the store. Emira is black and Briar is white. She informs the security guard who pretty much accuses Emira of kidnapping a child and refuses to let her leave. In the end, Emira has to call Briar’s father to come and sort things out. All this while, another shopper at the store captures all that has happened on his phone.
Alix Chamberlain is Emira’s employer. She is married to a local news anchor and is a social media star of sorts herself. She has managed to snag a book deal and hires Emira to take care of her two children—Briar and Catherine. But it’s mostly the curious chatterbox Briar that Emira has to look after as Alix doesn’t mind spending time with Catherine but can’t seem to deal with Briar. After the incident at the supermarket, Alix vows to make things right. She wants to get to know Emira better and befriend her. But Emira isn’t looking to befriend her employer. She just wants a job that provides health insurance and other benefits.
Such a Fun Age is a warmly narrated story that discusses race, the choices we make, and the lies we often tell ourselves to assuage our guilt. It has a riveting plot and characters we can identify with. Kelly Copeland, the man who films the horrible incident, is an ambiguous character. One moment you like him—he seems really nice, and the other moment you are sure all his actions are guided by a problematic ulterior motive. I find myself thinking about why he acted the way he did even days after finishing the book.
Reid’s writing infuses a lot of life into the story. The woman who papier-mâchés the toilet seat with toilet paper at the airport, lugging Vera Bradley luggage and clad in Lilly Pulitzer; the house guest who brings a gift of not one but two pairs of what she hopes will become her host’s “good scissors”—the use of details like these help you clearly picture the scenes. In some ways, the novel feels like it was written for the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if a movie adaptation comes out soon. Till then, I’d recommend this book to just about everyone I meet.
About the author
American novelist Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Reid started working on the novel while applying to graduate school and the book (including screen rights) was sold before she graduated. The book was also Reese Witherspoons’s first book club pick for 2020. Apart from the novel, Reid’s short stories have been featured in various publications.
Four and a half stars
Such a Fun Age
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
Pages: 310, Paperback