I really enjoyed this book! It is a page-turner, the characters are well-developed, and the conflict feels real and contemporary. I also really like the title.
Here’s the Goodreads summary: “In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.”
That’s basically it, but it doesn’t capture what I think really made this book great: it’s a simple story, but the awkward situations add nuance that I was thinking about days later. It’s very skilled craftsmanship – Reid somehow avoided it feeling deus ex machina, even in a plot that at times, with a heavier hand, would have felt contrived. I think it’s because she left enough for the reader to chew on. Even when it’s spelled out “this person made a bad choice, wow!” there’s enough ambiguity that you still kind of feel for them, and the more you think about it, the clearer Reid’s social commentary.
The characters are put in terribly awkward, nearly impossible, and, importantly, realistic, situations, and their choices are, well, real. The characters all make bad choices – yes, even Emira, there I said it, don’t @ me. Alix is, I guess, supposed to be the “worst” one, I guess…but her bad choices are made in a specific context that frankly, I related to, which was a bit uncomfortable for me–but in a good, self-reflection kind of way! The critiques of performative wokeness was illuminating and cringe-y, but also spot-on. The boyfriend/drama-catalyst Kelley also made some real bad choices, as did Robbie the minor character from the past, and Alix’s husband, and Emira’s friends.
I really think one of Reid’s points in her characterizations was that what makes a person the antagonist–what really made them bad–was the failure to see their mistakes and make an effort to correct their wrongs. Alix knew her past mistakes, but instead of dealing with those mistakes directly, and with those people directly, she chose to project onto her “friendship” with Emira. Kelley was closer to being “right” but still didn’t really learn from his conversations with Emira, and at the end of the book, kind of ends up in the same place he started. Emira grows not because she faced her fears and chose to deal with them. I really love the moral of the story, and the ambiguous way Reid crafted it–and that people probably disagree with my take on it.
In short, this book did not disappoint, and would be a great Book Club book. Be warned, though: there are some real awkward scenes. (In her interview with Trevor Noah, Reid says she loves crafting awkward moments and BOY IT SHOWS.) I want to give it 4 stars because I generally don’t care for super-contemporary fiction, but this book really stuck with me, and for that I bump it up to 5.