Saturday, January 16, 2021

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: when a grocery store visit goes viral - and why

Title: Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Publication: Putnam, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Fiction
Description: Nothing has gone exactly as planned since Alix and Peter Chamberlain moved to Philadelphia from Manhattan.  Peter does have a great job as a TV anchor but he misspoke on live TV, offending and angering some of his viewers.  Alix is worried her career and brand will suffer from being away from New York. However, she is pleased with Emira, the recent Temple grad, who has been babysitting the two little Chamberlain girls, which enables Alix to get work done. Late one night, during a crisis, she calls Emira and asks if she can distract Briar, the precocious toddler, by taking her out to a nearby gourmet food store.  Emira needs the money so leaves a party to take Briar shopping.  At the store, Emira – dressed for bar-hopping - and Briar attract the attention of shoppers and a security guard, who assume the young black woman has stolen the white child and call the police.  A spectator films the fracas that results but Peter Chamberlain arrives to calm everyone down.  Afterward, however, the incident has ripple effects.  The Chamberlains are mortified and apologetic, and Alix begins to fixate on Emira, beneficently seeking to influence and guide her.  When Emira’s new boyfriend gets involved, events get out of control between the two women.

My Impressions: This was an interesting and lively read that examines aspects of racism revealed by the fallout after Emira, who is black, is accused of kidnapping a white child.  Emira handles the original accusations well and is supported by friends as well as Kelley, the guy who observed and videoed the incident.  She is less sure about her overly friendly boss but Emira is a somewhat irritating character because she has no drive or interests; her only appeal is her genuine affection for Briar, her toddler charge.  

Alix is manipulative and obsessive, and while I think the reader is meant to feel sympathetic towards her at first, that feeling disappears as she stops being well-intentioned and goes way beyond intrusive to cross the line (I must have felt sorry for her because I kept saying, “Don’t do it!).  Her obsession is less malign than Elena Richardson in Little Fires Everywhere but emphatically crosses the line.  Alix’s husband Peter does not have much personality and seems oblivious to any of the undercurrents.   The most appealing character is Briar, Alix’s daughter, mysteriously neglected by her mother in favor of the new baby, presumably because the new baby looks just like Alix and does not ask inconvenient questions.

Kiley Reid (Random House photo)
The story is very visual so I can see why it has been optioned for a movie – not that that means it will actually be made into a movie!  I am considering it for my book group but we usually wait until books come out in paperback.

Source: Library


Lark said...

Sounds like an interesting read...and what can end up online and going viral these days is so crazy, isn't it?

LyzzyBee said...

I really enjoyed this book, thought-provoking but also an easy read. The part where two White people try to out-ally each other and prove the other's racism was hilarious but also hard-hitting. I found Emira's lack of ambition a bit of a sticking point but then why do we all have to be ambitious, I suppose!

Bettina said...

I basically detested all the characters, so I found this a real slog. It took me several goes to crawl through. Mind you, I think everyone’s book club will be reading it once it’s in paperback!

TracyK said...

Interesting premise, but I hardly ever read this type of book or books this popular. Maybe someday.