Such a Fun Age
By Kiley Reid
This book had people split down the middle.
Some loved it for how it delved into a heavy topic in a lighthearted way while
still touching on multiple serious issues. Others thought the novel, which has
been longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, too frivolous in its approach to
race relations in the US.
Although I can see why some people wanted it to be more intense and serious, I liked how the story of Emira Tucker, a 25-year-old African American woman, and Alix Chamberlain, a white middle-class lifestyle blogger, unfolded.
Emira is babysitter to Alix’s kids but mostly looks after the Chamberlain toddler, Briar. The book starts with Emira being stopped by a white security guard in a store who accuses her of kidnapping Briar. The rest looks at Alix’s efforts to bring Emira into the Chamberlain fold – often with eyebrow-raising results.
A host of other characters – Emira’s white boyfriend and her black girlfriends and Alix’s high-flying group of friends – add various layers to the discussions around race.
There’s also the issue of Emira having to make decisions about her future and having a “real” job with benefits such as healthcare, which is cleverly interwoven with all the drama in the story. – CHARLENE ROLLS
The Glass Hotel
By Emily St John Mandel
From the author of Station Eleven comes
this tale of greed, money, fraud and delusion, which is based on the Bernie
Madoff financial scandal.
After a beautiful woman named Vincent falls overboard while travelling on a container ship off the coast of Africa, the book revisits chapters from her life – her upbringing in a remote part of Canada and her time as a bartender at a five-star hotel, which brings her into the orbit of New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis.
They hook up, entering into a marriage of convenience, with Vincent acting as a trophy wife and turning a blind eye to his Ponzi scheme in return for a cushy life.
But as it all starts unravelling, you then see events from multiple perspectives – the investors who were conned, Alkaitis’ employees, the fraudster himself, who’s sentenced to more than 170 years in jail, and Vincent as she ends up working as a chef aboard the ship.
There are some characters you care about more than others and this constant shifting sometimes breaks the momentum of the novel. But St John Mandel is such a clever and entertaining writer you’ll want to see how she wraps it all up. – JANE VORSTER
By Kristen Hannah
Julia Cates is a child psychiatrist whose
career is ruined because of a scandal. In a bid to escape the fallout, she
returns to her American home town, Rain Valley, next to the Olympic National
Forest where her sister, Ellie, is the police chief.
Ellie needs her help with a six-year-old girl who appeared out of the forest. The child is terrified and cannot speak, so her identity is a mystery.
Julia has to use everything she knows, plus all her strength and faith, to help this bewildered child learn to speak and overcome her shocking past. She applies for temporary foster care so that Alice, as she calls her, can’t be removed by various scientific people who want to study her and put her in an institution.
Slowly the story of Alice’s past comes out and gets more shocking as it progresses. This extraordinary tale of human endurance and hope from the bestselling author of The Great Alone is disturbing but well worth reading. I couldn’t put it down. – GERRY WALDEN
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