Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
2. What does the title mean?
3. What do you make of the quote at the beginning of the book? ("We definitely wait for birthdays. Or even an ice cream. Like [my daughter] has to earn it. Yesterday we promised her an ice cream, but then she behaved horribly. And I said, "Then I'm sorry, ice cream is for girls who behave. And that's not you today. Maybe tomorrow.")
4. Did these characters seem real to you or did the descriptions feel forced? Did you feel like you knew the characters? And if you didn't know Alix, did you think that was intentional because she was trying to find herself?
5. Did Kelley have a black fetish? ("Kelley had a penchant for othering black culture that had started in high school and continued to develop in adulthood. He still didn't think that what he was doing was wrong." p.219) Was what he was doing wrong?
6. Did anyone else find it interesting that the author focuses on handwritten letters so much in a story where the characters could be more centered on texting and social media? What does this mean? (Letters like Alex's high school letters to Kelley, her letters for products, the thank you notes for Briar's birthday party, the hand-written card for Emira after the grocery store.)
7. Why does the author repeatedly point out that Emira doesn't use social media? Was Emira's detachment from technology believable? Would Emira's impressions of Alix and Kelley have been different if she had used social media?
8. Have you ever lied about a goldfirst death? How, if at all, do you wish you had handled it differently? ("And most importantly, why did Mrs. Chamberlain have to lie to Briar as if she couldn't handle the truth?" p.127)
9. Is Alix racist? --for how she treated Claudette? for being impressed with Emira's speech/word choices? for hiring a black sitter? for being proud that she had five African Americans at Thanksgiving dinner? for trying to help Emira take charge of her life? Why does Alix feel the need to take Emira under her wing? (p.261) Is that racism or classism?
10. Anyone notice that Emira is always crossing her legs? to type, to talk with Kelley, to take a picture with Santa, to confront Alix at the end? A comforting reflex?
11. Did the perspective shifts work in this book?
12. What do you make of Zara calling Tamra "Uncle Tom"? (p.267) (I'm getting your sh-t, and then I hear that woman ask if she'd done the right thing." Zara put aggressive air quotes over the right thing. "And then that Uncle Tom Tamra woman told her, 'one hundred percent,' and that this video is the best thing to ever happen to you.")
13. This story all started when a sitter was asked to take a child to a grocery store at 11pm. Alix says in her TV interview, "I think other parents understand...that the grocery store is typically an excellent place to kill time with a toddler." (p.282) Do you agree or disagree? Was this a Pemberton type place with a koi pond? How does this premise of a situation impact how you read the rest of the story?
14. At the end of the story, the author writes that "Emira would think of Mrs. Chamberlain many times on election night, and pray that she had enough room in her heart for both a devastating failure and her firstborn child." (p.304) Does this mean that Emira was hoping Clinton would lose?
15. What do you make of Emira's lack of ambition and lack of need to be connected online? How do those contrast with Alix's need for both?
16. Which characters did you want to learn more about in this book? (Peter Chamberlain? Emira's family?)
17. Did Alix remind anyone else of the girl in Bad Blood?
18. What did Emira have to wrestle with "deep into her thirties"? Do you believe Alix hired someone to "find herself"? ("Deep into her thirties, Emira would wrestle with what to take from her time at the Chamberlain house. Some days she carried the sweet relief that Briar would learn to become a self-sufficient person. And some days, Emira would carry the dread that if Briar ever struggled to find herself, she'd probably just hire someone to do it for her." p.305)
19. Did Alix like being a mom? What do you make of Emira's accusation before she left the Chamberlain house for the last time? ("Sooo...right now it's probably whatever 'cause she's only three?" she said. "But you gotta act like you like Briar once in a while. Before she like...really figures it out."..."I know I'm not a mom or whatever," Emira said, "But you gotta stop looking at her like you're just waiting for her to change, 'cause umm...It is what it is, you know? You're her mom." p.294-5)
Thanks so much for coming to discuss Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Most of us found this a compelling read, and yet, if we had difficulty with it, it was often because we wished for rounder characters who demonstrated growth. We found Alix absolutely detestable...until some of us started to admit that we could identify with her to an extent...before her antics and thoughts turned extreme. Thank you for sharing vulnerably about parenting struggles or times when we may have operated from a position of racial and/or class privilege. We wondered if there should be something more attractive or ambitious about Emira, something to help us get to know her better, and yet, perhaps this only emphasizes the point that we may be more like Alix than we thought. Or maybe the author needed to work on her characters a little more! Anyway, thanks again for sharing.
Many of you have read our pick for next month, but the word is there is much to discuss. Please join us in May when we read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
Hope to see you there!
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.