I support audiobooks. I think they are Real Reading. But they are often not for me, because my brain has a habit of not paying attention to the cadence of most audiobook readers, causing me to zone out. But when a trusted Goodreads friend sang the praises of the audiobook version of “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid, I decided to give it a try on Overdrive. If I didn’t like it, I could just return it.
Consider this my endorsement of occasionally re-trying things you thought weren’t to your taste. Nicole Lewis is an excellent audiobook narrator, giving subtle voice changes for each character but imbuing everything with warmth. I felt like I was part of a story being told instead of having a text read to me.
Of course it helps that the book is excellent. It’s a fast-paced contemporary story of human relationships and drama with a lot to unpack about how race and class affect romance, work and friendship in modern America.
Emira Tucker, the protagonist, is a Black woman in her 20s, working as a nanny for Alix Chamberlain. Alix is a white mom-trepreneur and blogger whose online presence is based on writing letters to companies and getting things for free. When the Chamberlain’s residence is egged one night, Alix calls Emira on short notice to take care of Briar, her toddler. Emira takes Briar to one of their favorite places, the upscale grocery store near the Chamberlain’s house. There, a white woman accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Emira is detained by a guard. A young man, Kelley, films the encounter and, later, starts dating Emira. Little does she know that he is connected to Alix’s past.
While Emira is just trying to get health insurance and find her place in the world, she is caught in the white savior/high school vengeance machinations of Alix. As Alix becomes more obsessed with Emira, eventually starting to spy on her phone, she becomes aware of Kelley and it brings up painful memories. Alix’s need to prove that her version of that night is the right one once and for all will catalyze all three characters’ relationships to each other.
It’s a book that may cause cringing and anger because of the actions of its characters, but it doesn’t provide easy answers. I’ve seen other readers mention that they found the dialogue distracting in the print book, which makes me even happier to have experienced the audio version, where I think Lewis’s work brings extra levels of meaning and character to the dialogue.
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