How Do You Know If You Are Doing The Right Thing?


I grew up an hour outside of New York City, and have never understood why anyone would want to live there.


I could go on and on with my reasons, but it is what it is: I find no part of New York City appealing.


Although I loved Josie Silver’s latest book The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, I was wildly disturbed by the fact that Lydia wanted to spend her honeymoon in New York City. Excuse me you dreamed of going to Times Square? Please, reevaluate.


If you are lulled to sleep by the sound of sirens and car horns, if you find traffic a turn on, if you just can’t get enough of the smell of trash, then okay. Go live there. I shall not.


This is all to say that for the life of me, I could not understand why Alix Chamberlain, one of the two main characters in Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age, is so obsessed with the city. She goes as far as to move and continue only posting pictures from NYC in hopes of convincing her Instagram followers she still lives there.


In Alix’s defense, her husband did uproot her to Philadelphia. If you asked me to pick which was the lesser of those two evils, I’m not sure I could.


Such a Fun Age is such a Reese Witherspoon pick that I cannot believe it took me almost three months to pick off the shelf. The only question I’m left with is this: Will Such a Fun Age be another Reese limited series or a movie?


(The film and television rights to Such a Fun Age were picked up by Lena Waithe’s production company. Reese strongly supports female production and directorship, but she’s got to be kicking herself a little bit here.)


Summary


Like I said, Alix Chamberlain has been uprooted from New York City and implanted into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has two young daughters and way more than two problems.


Top of the list right now?


The broken window, that has been shattered by an egg, thrown by a teen who is angry at her husband, a local news anchor, for his offhand, racially insensitive comment on air that morning.


It’s late, and a weekend, but she calls her babysitter, Emira, anyway. Emira, a 25-soon-to-be-26-year-old, is working two part time jobs and is more than stressed about going off her parents’ health insurance. She leaves a birthday party to take Alix’s two-year-old Briar to the grocery store, distracting her from the cops who were on their way to the house.


While innocently dancing in the aisles and observing all the kinds of nuts the store sells — one of Briar’s favorite activities — Emira and Briar are accosted by the store’s security guard, who accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar. Why?


Emira is black.

Briar is white.

Emira is not dressed for a babysitting gig.


A bystander, Kelley (White, Male, Early 30s) captures the exchange on camera, mortifying Emira. He emails her the footage, then deletes it from his phone. She never wants that footage to get out.


When Kelley and Emira run into each other shortly thereafter, sparks fly and the two start dating. Meanwhile, Alix is horrified about what happened to Emira and begins trying (too hard) to befriend her babysitter.


This includes inviting Emira, and Kelley, to Thanksgiving.


There’s just one problem. Alix opens the door and realizes that Emira’s boyfriend is her ex-boyfriend — the one from high school who ruined her life.


Yikes.


Alix wants Emira to dump Kelley.

Kelley wants Emira to quit.


25 is turning out to be such a fun age.


Review


I don’t believe that I have ever read a book without reading the back or the inside flap first. Even if I know what it’s about, or I read it online, whatever it is… when that book is in my hands, I read it.


The inside flap on my hardcover of Such a Fun Age says this…

“When the video of Emira goes public and unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.”

…Which is why I was so confused by page 200 when that video still hadn’t gone public!

In a way, that inside flap is almost a spoiler itself. How might the book have changed for me if I hadn’t known going into it that the video would get out?


That’s a question I’ll never be able to answer. I think it had its pros and cons. A con — I was anticipating it the whole time and wondering when it would happen, how and why. A pro — I knew it was coming, so I was able to focus on everything else leading up to that more closely, trying to put the pieces together myself. I’ll let you be the judge!


The inside flap also poses this question:

“What happens when you do the right thing for the wrong reason?”

I LOVE that question, let me start by saying that much. Because everyone in the book, at some point, thinks they’ve done the right thing.


I also think the following two questions should be posed:

  1. What happens when you do the wrong thing for the right reason?

  2. How do you know it’s the right thing?


More than anything else, I loved Such a Fun Age because it made me think the entire time. About adulthood, the things we all share, the experiences we’ll never understand, the subtle ways race and gender and class can impact us without realizing.


Those questions are so interesting because we don’t know. We don’t know if we’re doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing. Kelley thought he was doing Emira a favor by recording, but was he?


I highly suggest checking out this article from NBC about Kiley Reid and the book, but here is an excerpt I love:

“‘The characters that I enjoy the most, the author has set me up to not know how to feel about them,’ Reid said. ‘I think it’s a bit romantic to believe that racist and homophobic individuals are those ways all the time.’

For this reason, one of Reid’s writing philosophies is to “give each character a win” — a moment when they are redeemable.

“It’s a disservice to all of my characters if I don’t show them at their very best because I think showing those sides makes their less-than-perfect moments, even more real,’ Reid said.”


Read Such a Fun Age for its thought provoking nature and the fully realized, incredibly developed lead characters. Everything from their apartments to their social media usage to their appearances to their voices was so well crafted. I could clearly hear and visualize Alix, Emira and Kelley.


Let the countdown begin until Lena Waithe’s limited series/movie is released. I hope it does this justice.


4 out of 5 stars.

Red Hot Reads | © 2023 by Scarlet Marie

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