Let me just say that Such a Fun Age definitely will be on my Top Ten list of reads for 2020. That just goes without saying, I think, and I also think it will be on a lot of “favorite” lists this year. I have, however, hesitated to write a review of the book out of fear of diminishing its importance as well as its enjoyability. Such a Fun Age is a cross-genre tale about race, class, upbringing and the difficulty it is to cross those barriers. Age even plays a role in this clever, well written, very timely book.
Emira is a babysitter – not a nanny – for Peter and Alix (who changed the spelling of her name to be more relevant.) Peter is a newsreader on television and Alix is an “influencer” on social media. Emira is charged with caring for Briar, their very precocious, charming daughter and she loves it. There is a beautiful, loving relationship throughout the book between Emira and Briar. It reminded me a bit of the The Help, another book that looks at these same themes. Problems arise when Peter makes a racist on-air remark and their house is egged as a result. Alix asks Emira to take Briar out of the house to an upscale store until things can get sorted. There, however, Emira is accused of kidnapping Briar; after all, why would a black teenage girl have a white little girl at a store at 11pm? There is a huge scene and isn’t resolved until Peter arrives to clear up the confusion. Emira remarks that the security guard should be pleased since “Peter is an old, white guy.” Things escalate from there as Alix and her extremely politically correct friends try to make things better for Emira who is more concerned about not having health care than she is about “the incident.” Things grow more tense throughout the book leaving you feeling as though you are watching a snowball grow into an avalanche until the very final page of this book.
So, after reading Such a Fun Age twice through, I realized that this is far more than a book about “transactional relationships,” – seriously, did you even know that word existed until this book? I didn’t. It is far more than a book about race, although it very clearly is that too. This is a story about the disconnect we all have with one another as we make assumptions about the people who come into and out of our lives. Do I treat the migrant differently than I treat others in my world? Do I see a person in their 30s and immediately make assumption about their “millennial” lifestyle? Do I try to make others see me as “relevant,” when, in fact, we all are. But, what I came away with most is that Emira was her own person, with her own goals and her own identity. She didn’t want to be super successful like some of her “home girls.” Neither did she want to be left behind in the job market. Most importantly, she didn’t have her life all figured out on the time-table that society set for her – few do! We forget that we are individuals and each of us – regardless of race or religion or lifestyle choices – have to allow that individuality to flourish. Stop putting people into boxes to fit your own ideas, ideals or beliefs. It really is that simple and Such a Fun Age illustrates this beautifully.
GENRE: Domestic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Thank you to #PenguinPublishingGroup and #GPPutnamandSons