When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.
Let me begin my review by saying that I absolutely adored this novel! It has everything – fantastic characters, great dialogue, and a storyline that kept me gripped throughout.
The novel begins with a shocking yet ultimately non-violent scene as Emira is accosted at a supermarket by a security guard, suspected of kidnapping the child that she is babysitting. She explains herself, and yet it isn’t until the child’s father arrives that Emira is allowed to leave. It’s a horrific situation, particularly as it’s clear that the child knows Emira and is perfectly happy with her. This novel is so relevant right now. I think that it’s a timely reminder of the prejudice that many face, and that events such as this will occur far more often than is reported in the media. Those events that we do hear about are often those with extreme outcomes, yet I expect that these represent barely a fraction of the incidents of racial profiling and prejudice that occur worldwide every single day.
Such a Fun Age features two main characters, Emira and her employer, Alix. I thought that both were brilliantly written, and I loved the contrast between them. These two women couldn’t be more different, and it’s difficult to imagine them crossing paths in anything other than an employer / employee relationship. Emira comes across as someone who is drifting through life. She doesn’t know what she wants to do and is stuck in two part-time jobs including the babysitting gig. She is confident in herself, however – she seems very self-aware and is comfortable in her own skin. In many ways, I felt that Alix was the opposite. She comes from a privileged and wealthy background, and has always been driven, having made a name for herself as a feminist blogger. Alix doesn’t seem entirely happy with her life, though. She’s struggling to write the book that she’s already taken the advance for and is uncomfortable with the additional pounds she’s carrying from her last pregnancy. She seemingly has everything that she could need, and yet seems to be lacking a certain je ne sais quoi in her life.
The supermarket incident is a pivotal moment and initiates a chain of events that affects these two women in more ways than either expect. Part of this is driven by Alix’s resolution to treat Emira better following the incident, increasing her hourly rate and trying to get to know her as more than an employee. Emira is wary of this change in Alix, and this leads to some awkward conversations, always initiated by Alix, as she encourages Emira to share more information about herself and her life. Reading the novel, I too felt wary of Alix’s intentions. I think it’s a positive step that she’s attempting to improve relations with her employee, and yet some elements of her behaviour are problematic and I wondered if her motivation was entirely selfless as she would have us believe.
Such a Fun Age is a powerful and timely novel exploring themes of race, privilege, and friendship. I rushed through it, having no idea of where the plot would take me but desperate to find out. While I’ve deliberately not gone into the plot in detail – it would be far too easy to spoil the novel for others – things develop from that opening scene at the supermarket and build up to a dramatic conclusion. It’s a novel that is by turns amusing and infuriating, and one that I recommend to all.