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"Come & Get It" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz

“Come and Get It,” by Kiley Reid, is a contemporary fiction story set mainly in a dormitory at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The illustration of a pig running across the cover offers homage to the Arkansas Razorbacks athletic teams at the university.

            The plot has nothing to do with sports, however.  Agatha Paul, a visiting professor reeling from an upcoming divorce, begins teaching a literature class for a year.  At the same time, she interviews a select group of women about their views on weddings (what they dream of, what they plan to spend, where the money will come from, what does a bad wedding look like, etc.). Agatha’s first book was about grief and funerals and her second book about birthday celebrations. The books were well-received, and her publishers are expecting Agatha to write the book on weddings during her year of teaching.

            As Agatha interviews the girls, she is surprised more about their answers that reflect their privilege and expectations. When the students toss around phrases like “cute little refugee,” “Little Mexican bebe,” “ghetto weddings” “ghetto talk,” and “fun money,” while discussing other people’s appearances and attitudes, Agatha changes her research from weddings to money and how young people acquire it and use it.

            Agatha is motivated by the money question because her own spouse spent Agatha’s money lavishly while contributing little to their savings or lifestyle. Similarly, the girls she interviews get paid for doing nothing by their wealthy fathers, some get regular allowances, and some are there with full-ride diversity scholarships.

            Agatha is most impressed by Millie, a resident assistant, who is the most helpful in helping Agatha conduct her research. Agatha surreptitiously hides in Millie’s room and records the students’ conversations as they go about their evenings. Agatha begins sending short excerpts about the girls’ lives to her editor who in turn sends the material to Teen Vogue magazine where the essays are published. The publishers have no clue that Agatha isn’t being ethical in her research.

            Agatha admires 24-year-old Millie; she is the opposite of her soon-to-be ex-spouse in that Millie has a goal to buy a house and saves accordingly. Millie seems more mature than the other dorm residents who are living a more narcissistic and typical college life.

            Millie becomes so focused on work outside of her dorm responsibilities (and with her relationship with Agatha) that she fails to do her job. When her charges begin to fall through the cracks and disaster strikes, Millie’s and Agatha’s lives change.

            Author Kiley Reid presents a realistic vision of college life and college towns. Most of the mistakes made by the characters are the result of immaturity, lack of knowledge about the world outside of their own, and a failure to appreciate and acknowledge those who are different. Agatha’s mistakes are less easy to ignore; she violates codes of ethics in her work and she fails to separate her place of power from those with no power. 

            Indiscretion, poor judgment, and lack of empathy are at the heart of this page-turner. The author’s ability to conjure up the college experience in a dorm and to realistically portray the lives of young women at a certain point in time are distinctive. 

            “Come & Get It” is a Good Morning America book club pick. Kiley Reid is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan so there is a reason her characters ring true. Reid is a best-selling author, and her book, “Such a Fun Age” was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.

            Buy the Book.



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