Luster by Raven Leilani
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Firstly, I would like to send a huge thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux books at Macmillan publishers for sending me an advanced review copy of this gorgeous book. Luster comes out today! August 4th, 2020. I knew just by looking at this cover that I wanted to read this book, it also helped that the plot sounded immensely intriguing so I had to give this book a read. Luster happens to be of this summer’s most anticipated reads and it is practically on every must read list. I am so excited to tell you all what I thought about it!
Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art, and someone else’s open marriage.
We follow a young 23 year old named Edie as she stumbles her way into her twenties. She shares an apartment in Bushwick, NYC, clocking in and out of her not so exciting admin job and all the while, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She struggles with trying to figure out her path into life as an artist, and then one day she meets Eric. Eric is a digital archivist who has a family back in New Jersey including her wife who is an autopsist and agrees to an open marriage with Eric, but with rules in place. Edie finds herself unemployed and somehow falls into Eric’s family life and his home in New Jersey. She becomes a hesitant friend to his wife Rebecca, and ends up somehow being a role model for their adopted daughter Akila. Edie is the only black woman that Akila knows. Edie deals with all of this as well as navigating the ever changing landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics.
Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to figure out and make sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences and inspirations that bring us into ourselves along the way.
You guys. I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I have to say, this was one of the most refreshing reads I have read in a while. What a strange, haunting and twisted book! But in a really good way!
I would like to start off with the writing style because I feel this is what you notice right away after reading the first few pages. I was in complete awe and also felt very confused, like what the heck am I reading! This is so weird, but also insanely intriguing. The way that Leilani writes in this book was one of the most refreshing writing styles I have read in a hella long time. It was written very matter-of-factly, if that’s even a word. It was sharp, snatched, warped, blunt and quite dark. I liked the dark humor sprinkled throughout this book. Ridiculously clever. Raven Leilani is one to watch out for you guys.
The characters in Luster were spectacular. There aren’t many, just four, and it is narrated by Edie herself so everything you read is solely from her perspective. This I think was dynamic in being able to figure out who Edie was, and to understand her story. She was a lonely character, most definitely an introvert and struggles through life in this increasingly difficult time and era that we are in. She faces being the token black girl at her work place, a difficult childhood, and mostly just trying to figure out who she is and how she fits in the world she was put into. The situation she finds herself in is completely extraordinary. At first, I thought, no way, this would never happen in real life. This surreal, and very awkward scenario. No way. But as you read on, you actually begin to see why things have shaped up to be the way they are and you could see this playing out in some alternate reality somewhere in the world. I thought Rebecca’s character was excellent. Very subtle but very much present in the story. I also adored Akila, the daughter of Eric and Rebecca. Overall wonderful characters and all crucial to the story of the book.
This is a special book, it really is. What brings this book all together was the writing done by Leilani. I was completely blown away. The way she puts Edie front and center as the narrator was excellently done. Edie faces a lot in her life. There is this sort of constant melancholy and ache to Edie’s life and her past experiences, in which Leilani delves boldly into in this book. Leilani has spun a web of incredible and necessary characters that all weave in and out of Edie’s life in this achingly taught read.
I honestly cannot put into words how amazing this book is. What a rockin debut from Raven Leilani. This was one of the most thought provoking, sexy and arousing, blunt, awkward, weird, dark and sharp books I have read in a minute! I loved the sexual antics in this book, it was very relate-able. You never quite knew where the story was headed and I loved that! It was filled with surprises and a never ending bold and sadistic humor.
Luster is an impossible book to put down and is a massive page turner. It’s definitely a binge worthy book! Luster deals with what it is like to be a young black twenty something year old in our progressive yet quite frankly backwards time period of today. It tackles race, power, and the path to your own personal growth. Read this book! It’s weird, different but super dope at the same time. I sense some awards coming your way Leilani. I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next. Loved it.
My song pick for this book had to be of a sexy, demure nature. I wanted something in the Alternative R&B-ish genre this time but something current and moody. When I think of sexy tunes in this genre, I think of artists such as Khalid, Rihanna, SZA and more. Therefore, my song pick for this alluringly dark and twisted book is ‘The Hills’ by The Weeknd
Fun Fact: Raven Leilani is also an artist! Check out her website HERE
Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Literary Fiction
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Reviewed by Chrissy's Books