Kiley Reid's debut novel, Such A Fun Age, caused a big stir when it was released a couple of years ago, and rightly so. It's a rich, funny, excruciating stew of contemporary issues around race, class, money, age and gender with clashes on every level of privilege. It's American, but it almost has the feel of an English novel of manners where embarrassment and the avoidance of embarrassment drives the action -- maybe that 's why I enjoyed it so much!
Our protagonist is Emira, who at twenty six is working as a babysitter for a white family and still trying to figure out what she really wants to do with her life. Called in for a late night emergency, she is almost arrested in a neighbourhood grocery store for kidnapping three year old Briar, and the novel follows the events that spiral from this incident, riffing off the guilt of Alex, her self-deluding employer; the creepy fascination of Kelley, the white man who films the episode and who has a long-distant and unpleasant link to Alix's past; Emira's friends, who urge her to get a better job.
The disparate voices in this multi-threaded story are perfectly captured, including that of toddler Briar. It's really difficult to portray very young children (who aren't your own!) both truthfully and interestingly, but Reid manages it beautifully, and we can see why Emira is so reluctant to sever their connection. Such a Fun Age is a lively, entertaining novel that throws a bomb on almost every page, a savage but also tender satire.