Such a Fun Age For Who??
Updated: Mar 13, 2020
When I was 25 years old, I was sitting in a GMAT prep course in NYC and had an epiphany that I had absolutely no desire to work in finance anymore. I didn’t want to go to business school, so why was I sitting in a 6-week course on how to tackle the GMAT? I walked out of that course and made up my mind that it was time for a change. The next day I started looking for jobs in non-profits and within three months I was working in Development at a private school on the Upper West Side of NYC.
Does anyone really know what they want to do when they’re 25 years old? I think for most people, the answer is “no”. 25 is the age of figuring out what you want to do with your life, looking to meet that special someone who you will spend the rest of your life with or just dating lots of different people, enjoying independence and the notion of being self-sufficient. It is a very indecisive and also an exciting age.
When I picked up this book Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, my first question is who is this story about. Who is at such a fun age?
There are two main adult characters in this book. Emira is a 25-year-old black woman who has graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia and has not quite figured out what she wants to do with her life. In the meantime, to support herself, she has taken a job as a part-time babysitter for the Chamberlain family.
The Chamberlains are a white family who just relocated from NYC to Philadelphia with their two little girls, Briar and Catherine. The dad, Peter is a news anchor and the mom, Alix (pronounced Ahh – leeks) is a blogger, influencer, and creator of Let Her Speak. Alix is the second main character in this book. She is a 33-year-old woman and mother of two who is also trying to figure out this new stage in her life. She is a woman with a big career, who finds herself suddenly living in Philadelphia and not her beloved NYC, raising two kids and trying to stay relevant.
The book opens with Emira getting a call late at night from her boss, Alix, saying she needs her to pick up their 3-year-old to entertain her outside of the house while they deal with a situation that has occurred at home. Emira takes Briar to the local high-end specialty grocery store in the neighborhood. It is almost 11 pm, Emira is wearing a “clubbing” outfit so she and Briar decide to have a dance party in one of the aisles. The security guard at the store thinks this is reason enough to question her. And this is how the story begins.
So, let’s get back to the title. With some books, the title makes sense either right away or at least by the end of the book. After finishing this book, it is not entirely clear who the title refers to. Is the author speaking of Emira’s age and how hard it is to figure out life at 25? Or is it Briar that is at the fun-age? I mean what 3-year-old doesn’t have it made? Constant attention, getting pushed around in a stroller, and having a babysitter who adores you? Could it be Alix, at 33, married with two little kids under 3 years old, trying to figure out how to have a career while also being an all-present mommy? Or maybe she means all of them. Is the title meant to be sarcastic? These were all the questions that floated through my head throughout the book.
I appreciated these characters and as I was reading I felt I could identify with both Emira and Alix. But I also found myself annoyed with Alix a lot. She isn’t a very likable character. But often as readers we do like flawed characters.
While I enjoyed this book and the relationship between Emira and Alix and more importantly Emira’s love of three-year-old Briar, I found myself angry at Alix. What mom calls a babysitter at 10:51 pm at night to take her almost 3-year-old out of the house so that she won’t be upset by an incident that has occurred? Why not just occupy her up in her room with a game or a movie? The whole premise of the story seems unlikely.
Most importantly, the book is about race and brings up some very common themes in racism. Why is a black woman with a white child always assumed to be a nanny? Why is a black woman scrutinized when she is with a white child? The only reason Emira is questioned at the grocery store at 10:51 pm at night is because she is black and she is with a little white girl. And don’t get me wrong, Alix is a wonderful boss, she understands the position she has put her black babysitter in because of the late-night run in. She decides to spend the rest of her days overcompensating for the incident, to the detriment of 3-year-old Briar. Here is where I take issue. Is it realistic for Alix to care so much about her 25-year old sitter? On the one hand, Alix is the cliché power woman who strives to have it all and will knock down anything and anyone to get her way but on the other hand, she spends her life consumed with making Emira feel like part of the family. The happiest day for Alix in the book is when Emira comes to Thanksgiving dinner as a guest and not as a babysitter. In fact, Alix spends so much time fretting about Emira that she doesn’t bother to make the deadline for the first 50 pages of her book.
And what about Emira? Emira is just trying to get through the day, make ends meet, figure out her life. Her health insurance under her parent’s policy will end the minute she turns 26. She can barely pay her rent and she finds that taking care of three-year-old Briar is the best thing she has ever done. She knows that she should look for a better job/career but she actually loves going to work and spending her days putting goldfish in cups and answering the millions of questions that Briar’s curious mind thinks of.
The story gets interesting when someone from Alix’s past reemerges and changes the course of everything. Ultimately, it is up to you the reader to decide what character the title refers to. This book is a quick read and perfect for the long weekend. It’s entertaining and a page-turner because you will genuinely want to see where these characters end up. And while the book opens with some very serious stuff, it does get a little more light-hearted and at times funny as you read on. I will be curious to hear your thoughts so please feel free to comment.
With the vacation week upon us, I wish all of you a fun long weekend. I won’t be posting next week but will be back on Friday 2/28/20 with a book that I am excited about. Thank you again for all your support. I hope you’re enjoying these books as much as I am.
Such a Fun Age
Publication Date: December 31, 2019