There’s a lot of hype around this book which can set expectations high.
Emira, a young black woman is a regular babysitter for Briar, a white three-year-old girl whose mother Alix is an affluent white woman. Briar is a talkative and highly inquisitive child with a nervous disposition. Late one night, Alix calls Emira to take Briar out while the police come by to investigate a broken window. Emira thinks about the money she needs and she leaves a party to come and look after the child. (As an aside, why a three-year-old is not already in bed fast asleep pops into my mind but the nature of this child is explored to kind of explain it.)
Emira takes Briar to a grocery story because the child loves to look at nuts. A security guard watches them and asks Emira has a young white child. Kelley, a white man happens to film the ensuing altercation. This event has reverberations for Emira, Alix, Kelley and poor little Briar.
It is hard to say a lot without giving away spoilers. The underlying issues around race and privilege are central themes as is women’s relationships with each other and the pressure women can place on themselves and on their friends.
Alix is a do-gooder and is genuinely horrified by what happened to Emira at the grocery store. Besides throwing money at her and support to take it further, Alix decides that she really needs Emira not just for babysitting, but as a friend and part of her family. Alix wants to get close, to know her to the point of stalking her babysitter’s texts.
“Alix often felt that Emira saw her as a textbook rich white person… but if Emira would only take a deeper look… Alix fantasized about Emira discovering things about her that shaped what Alix saw as the truest version of herself. Like the fact that one of Alix’s friends was also black. That Alix’s new and favourite shoes were from Payless, and only cost eighteen dollars.”
I had little sympathy for Alix who was completely needy, turning to her girlfriends for advice over the most ridiculous things. Her well-drawn character produced a range of emotions for me. Emira on the other hand just wants to do a job which pays her enough to qualify for health insurance. Well- educated, she is without ambition, continuously doubting herself. She compares herself to her girlfriends and their own various successes and they don’t quite understand Emira who’s highlight of the week is to be with Briar who adores her. Alix’s girlfriends are the same. And the relationships are very well handled.
“Sometimes, when she was particularly broke, Emira convinced herself that if she had a real job, a nine-to-five position with benefits and decent pay, then the rest of her life would start to resemble adulthood as well.”
It took a while for me to get into the first half of the book, getting to know characters I didn’t much like. The second half was dynamite with a sinister twist creating a great deal of anxiety about Emira, cheering for her and hoping her response would produce a positive outcome.
Despite the hype, it’s a quick, easy read and worth checking out. But is it a five star read? Not for me.
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