Skip to main content

Such a Fun Age

Review

Such a Fun Age

Just about everything Alix Chamberlain does, she does with an eye on appearances. Her work, a social media brand based on her habit of writing letters to get merchandise and services for free, demands that she present her life a certain way. When she moves from New York City to Philadelphia with her husband and two young daughters, one concern is missing her friends and the other is not letting people know the truth that she has left New York.

Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old Temple graduate who, markedly less ambitious than her close friends, is looking for a kind of contentment that she finds hard to explain. She works part-time for the Chamberlains babysitting their oldest daughter, three-year-old Briar, and feels happiest when she is around the child. But the relationship between Alix and Emira grows ever more complicated due to racial and economic divides that are exacerbated by Alix’s insecurities and beliefs. Things become even more fraught when Emira meets Kelley Copeland, a man from Alix’s past. Kiley Reid alternates perspectives, between Emira and Alix, in her first novel, the fantastic SUCH A FUN AGE.

"Reid gives readers much to ponder as they move along with her characters through charged conversations and difficult, even dangerous, situations. I highly recommend this smart and compelling novel."

Emira meets Kelley when the Chamberlains call her to come pick up Briar late one night. After Peter Chamberlain makes a racist comment on live television, their front window is broken and they call the police to file a report. Emira, having arrived from a night out with friends, takes Briar to a neighborhood grocery store to keep her busy. A store customer suspects Emira, an African American woman, of kidnapping Briar, a white child. The accusations and altercation are captured on video by Kelley. A chance meeting later connects Kelley and Emira, and he gives her the footage, promising never to share it unless she wants it released. The two begin dating, and while Emira is still considering her career options, she is happy with Kelley.

As this relationship develops, Alix is growing more and more anxious. She is anxious about her business, writing the book she has already accepted an advance on, and she is becoming anxious about Emira. Alix wants to know all about Emira --- her friends, her plans --- but she also wants Emira to know that she isn’t racist. She tells herself that she would like to be friends with Emira, though readers are right to be suspect. Reid reveals, over the course of the book, the relationship that Kelley and Alix shared in high school, its racial implications, and especially Alix’s deep-seated prejudices, only thinly veiled as a compassionate paternalism.

Of course, the video will be shared, but just how and why will provide readers with an unexpected narrative wrinkle. Emira, for her part, responds to the betrayal, invasion of privacy and great loss with a calm that allows her to observe, learn about herself, and move forward with a strength and fortitude that few people expect of her.

SUCH A FUN AGE is a great book. Reid’s writing is crisp and precise, but with room for complex characterization and a host of emotions. The subject matter and themes here --- race, class, friendship --- are serious and provocative. Reid gives readers much to ponder as they move along with her characters through charged conversations and difficult, even dangerous, situations. I highly recommend this smart and compelling novel.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 10, 2020

Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid

  • Publication Date: December 31, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 052554190X
  • ISBN-13: 9780525541905