by Raven Leilani
Contemporary, Adult Fiction
Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.
Razor sharp, provocatively page-turning and surprisingly tender, Luster by Raven Leilani is a painfully funny debut about what it means to be young now.
Okay, I’m just going to start off this review by bringing attention to how beautiful this cover is. Isn’t it just such a treat? I’m so obsessed with it, so I knew as soon as I saw this doing the rounds in the book community, I wanted to check it out.
Luster is a very honest novel. It does not shy away from the realities of adulthood, it does not fantasise and gloss over the truth, but it presents to us a genuine reflection of what it means to be a young adult in this world. Edie, as the summary begins, is just trying to survive and that is very much the essence for the whole novel.
The writing and prose in this novel was so sharp and so precise that I really was in awe. It was probably my favourite thing about the book, alongside Edie as a main character. I thought she had a really strong voice and her character was captivating right from the beginning. I was rooting for her the whole way through and really admired the commentaries on gender and race that the author weaved into the story.
Although she had some really interesting characters and some great dynamics between them, especially the uncomfortable relationship between Edie and Rebecca, Eric’s wife, I still think there were parts of this novel that maybe weren’t as engaging as they could have been. For the most part I was hooked, but there were some parts that fell flat for me, particularly in the middle.
But overall I really enjoyed this novel and the razor-sharp prose, so I’m excited to see what Leilani does next. She is a very talented writer, that’s for sure.