This was an absolutely brilliant read. It starts with Emira Tucker, a 25-year-old graduate who babysits three times a week for Alix and Peter Chamberlain. Or, more specifically, their adorable toddler Briar, who loves learning, and chatting, and fish, and teabags, and wearing people’s glasses. After an incident at the Chamberlain’s home one evening after a racially ignorant comment made by Peter on the news, Emira is called away from a night-out to take Briar to an upmarket store to get her out the house while the police are there.
As a young black woman with a small white child, Emira is accused of kidnapping Briar by bigots feigning concern, barred from leaving the store until Peter is called and steps in. A narrative is set off which includes Kelley, a man who filmed the interaction and who has a history bizarrely linked to Emira.
Interestingly and vitally, though this incident at Market Depot is a starting point and the trigger for a series of events, this isn’t the focus for the rest of the novel: Emira doesn’t want the video to go public, she wants to forget about it. But increasingly it becomes apparent that what she wants and what the white people in her life think is “best” are at odds. With perfect simplicity and clarity, Emira tells Kelley that she doesn’t want him to be cross that this happened to her. She wants him to be cross that it happens.
The interwoven relationships in this book are fraught and fascinating, but also shockingly unexpected, so I won’t give away more than that. But I assure you, each character is so fleshed out and complicated, so simultaneously infuriating and empathy-inducing, that after a book-full of side-taking, you realise just how believable each character is that this see-sawing of emotion was even possible.