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Luster

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Luster sees a young black woman figuring her way into life as an artist and into love in this darkly comic novel. She meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage. In this world of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics, Edie finds herself unemployed and living with Eric. She becomes he Luster sees a young black woman figuring her way into life as an artist and into love in this darkly comic novel. She meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage. In this world of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics, Edie finds herself unemployed and living with Eric. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.


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Luster sees a young black woman figuring her way into life as an artist and into love in this darkly comic novel. She meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage. In this world of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics, Edie finds herself unemployed and living with Eric. She becomes he Luster sees a young black woman figuring her way into life as an artist and into love in this darkly comic novel. She meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage. In this world of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics, Edie finds herself unemployed and living with Eric. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

30 review for Luster

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    I’m really glad my twenties are over. ETA: This is an incredible debut. So uncomfortable and stressful and beautiful and haunting and honest and ugly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    it’s not overhyped. that’s it, that’s the review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    Luster seems to be getting rave reviews across the board, but I found the "beautiful" and "evocative" writing actually quite painful to read. The book is a very cold, detached account of a young woman's relationship with an older man and his wife. Some people have been favorably comparing this to Queenie, even going so far as to claim it is a better-written version, but this is really not my idea of good writing. Edie narrates like she's trying oh so very hard for her Creative Writing 101 class, Luster seems to be getting rave reviews across the board, but I found the "beautiful" and "evocative" writing actually quite painful to read. The book is a very cold, detached account of a young woman's relationship with an older man and his wife. Some people have been favorably comparing this to Queenie, even going so far as to claim it is a better-written version, but this is really not my idea of good writing. Edie narrates like she's trying oh so very hard for her Creative Writing 101 class, dragging out a metaphor here and there but failing to add any real emotional pull. Lots of horrible things happen, but the writing kept me feeling disconnected from the story being told. Things like this just read awkwardly to me: She is, I suppose, sexy in the way a triangle can be sexy, the clean pivot from point A to B to C, her body and face breaking no rules, following each other in a way that is logical and curt. Of course, in motion, when she turns and stoops to open the oven, the geometry is weirder. And: When I imagine it, she is indifferent, her vagina defying all etymology, not a pussy or a twat but an abstract violence, like a Rorschach or a xenomorph. For me, I've had little choice. The moment I left Clay's house, my vagina was a cunt. I know some readers will love and have loved this kind of writing, but I've sadly never been one of them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    The book and I head to Couples Counseling God how I loved it when this book and I started dating. But truth be told, I was against the whole thing at first. My friend, NetGalley, accidentally set us up. I was irritated, since I hadn’t requested the date. But then I decided I might as well just go ahead and meet. Her profile sounded pretty cool. And she was just my type—literary fiction. It was love at first sight. It was all flying and jumping and dancing and pushing great sighs. Don’t we all love The book and I head to Couples Counseling God how I loved it when this book and I started dating. But truth be told, I was against the whole thing at first. My friend, NetGalley, accidentally set us up. I was irritated, since I hadn’t requested the date. But then I decided I might as well just go ahead and meet. Her profile sounded pretty cool. And she was just my type—literary fiction. It was love at first sight. It was all flying and jumping and dancing and pushing great sighs. Don’t we all love the honeymoon? I was enamored and listened to every word, hard. The sentences were unique, creative. Oh these ideas, these images, this plot! But then, oh then. It was at 50 percent that things started to go downhill. Oh, I’d say she still stood pretty, good bones and all that, but she got boring. I wanted the counselor to like me, so I got off on a little tangent describing her story. The star is a 20-something black woman, flailing. She’s having an affair. She has job problems. Her living situation turns out to be completely bizarre and made the book unputdownable. A tease: she ends up assisting in an autopsy. The counselor got bossy and told me to shut the eff up, to stop my endless complaining and talk to the book, that we needed to work through it ourselves. Yeah, right. Here’s our conversation: I said to the book, “You didn’t used to talk to me this way. You used to not be boring! You’ve changed!” The book said, “Face it, you just got tired of me.” I said, “No I didn’t. (But I wonder secretly if she’s right.) “You started talking about video characters. Costumes, Comic Con, for god sake.” “So?” she asked. “You’re just too old to appreciate it.” Ouch, that one really stung. I said, “Don’t be an ageist, honey; that’s just nasty.” She laughed a little and said, “Well, you sort of asked for it.” I let that one go. I said, “You rambled. You stopped telling me what was happening. You went all stream-of-consciousness on me. It was self-indulgent. Like you didn’t care about me one bit.” She said, “What are you talking about? I just got in my groove. I thought you would find everything I said interesting. Geez, what a buzz kill.” I said, “When you first talked, everything, I mean everything, made me float and jump at the same time. Your story was weird in a cool way, you were like no one I had ever met. I couldn’t stop writing down the offbeat things you said. It was hard to control myself. Highlight city. And the plot? Very strange and very wonderful. She said, “I adored you at first, too. You hung on my every word. I could tell that you were all starry-eyed. Who doesn’t like someone so supportive? So crazed with love. Someone who will tell all their friends about how great I am. It was flattering as hell.” I said, a little bitterly, “Well, as far as I’m concerned, you changed.” She said, equally as bitterly, “Well, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a rainy-day lover. I can’t believe you shut me out. Personally, I thought we’d last forever. Obviously I read you wrong.” She kept going. “So, this is it, huh?” I felt like shit. “Wait, I still think of you as a good friend; I’m just not in love with you. You’re so damn cool, and you can talk like nobody’s business. I don’t know how you speak the way you do; it’s just brilliant. You’re off-kilter, you know, in the best way. You’re wicked smart and creative, funny and wise. Really, for a long while, you were my favorite book of the year, and I was sure you were going directly to my all-time favorites list. But don’t worry, I’m still going to brag to my friends about you.” She said, “I bet you say that to all your books.” I laughed. “Yeah, right.” She continued, “I had no idea you were so fickle. I got a little long-winded and it was ‘off with my head.’” I said, “You’re exaggerating; I wasn’t THAT turned off. And by the way, your name is so damn sexy.” She said, “Stop trying to butter me up. It’s over. I know it…. Nice knowing you.” It was at that point I started crying. The counselor told us it was all okay, that we can’t help what we’re feeling. She complimented us on speaking up. I felt sick. But it’s true what I said: I WILL tell my friends about her, enthusiastically. The book is something else. She’s on the market now, and I’m positive that lots of people will end up having long-lasting affairs with her. Mine just got cut short. As the counselor said, we can’t help what we’re feeling. My new mantra. The book and I left the office together, and we smiled at each other, a little wistfully. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me a copy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Wow.... ...no-holds-barred.... ...untrammeled.... ...unhindered.... ...unconstrained.... ...rampant, raw, incorrigible.... ...A TRULY ADDICTIVE READ!!!!! It’s 3:40 am.... I literally just finished it....a one sitting middle of the night gulp...( all 227 pages). A buzz book for 2020?/! I sure think so!!!! I’m incredibly impress by Raven Leilani. “Luster” is a first novel, and I’m already looking forward to her next book. Edie, in her 20’s, is a black woman... an artist from Bushwick. She’s frosty, Wow.... ...no-holds-barred.... ...untrammeled.... ...unhindered.... ...unconstrained.... ...rampant, raw, incorrigible.... ...A TRULY ADDICTIVE READ!!!!! It’s 3:40 am.... I literally just finished it....a one sitting middle of the night gulp...( all 227 pages). A buzz book for 2020?/! I sure think so!!!! I’m incredibly impress by Raven Leilani. “Luster” is a first novel, and I’m already looking forward to her next book. Edie, in her 20’s, is a black woman... an artist from Bushwick. She’s frosty, frothy, and fusty.... erratic....lusty, and laborious... a female who is unabashedly sex-forward, and straight-forward. She’s also unfulfilled by virtually everything in her life. She’s barely scraping by on a publishing salary...trying to be an artist-in-her-own-right. Edie begins dating Eric, a middle-aged white married man, in an open marriage, with an adopted 12 year old daughter, Akila. Edie becomes entangled with them all....( wife is Rebecca), emotionally, physically, and even economically. “I have not had much success with men. This is not a statement of self-pity. This is just a statement of the facts. Here’s a fact: I have great breasts, which have warped my spine. More facts: my salary is very low. I have trouble making friends, and men lose interest in me when I talk. It always goes well initially, but then I talk too explicitly about my ovarian torison or rent. Eric is different. Two weeks ago into our correspondence, he tells me about the cancer that ravaged half of his maternal family. He tells me about an aunt he loved who made portions with fox hair and hemp. How she was buried with a corn husk doll she’d made of herself. Still, he describes his childhood home lovingly, the digressions of farmland between Milwaukee and Appleton, the yellow-breasted chats and tundra swans that would appear in his yard, looking for seed. When I talk about my childhood, I only talk about the happy parts. The VHS of ‘Spice World I’ I received for my fifth birthday, the Barbie I melted in the microwave when no one was home. Of course, the context of my childhood—boy bands, Lunchables, the impeachment of Bill Clinton— only emphasizes our generation gap. Eric is sensitive about his age and mine, and he makes a considerable effort to manage the twenty-three-year discrepancy. He follows me on Instagram and leaves lengthy comments on my posts. Retired Internet slang interspersed with earnest remarks about how the light falls on my face. Compared to the inscrutable advances of younger men, it is a relief”. “When we talked online, we both did some work to fill in the blanks. We filled them in optimistically, with the kind of yearning that brightens and distorts”. “All I want is for him to have what he wants. I want to be uncomplicated and undemanding. I want no friction between his fantasy and the person I actually am. I want all that and I want none of it. I want the sex to be familiar and tepid, for him to be unable to get it up, for me to be too open about my IBS, so that we are bonded in mutual consolation. I want us to be light in public. And when we fight in private, I want him to maybe accidentally punched me. I want us to have a long fruitful bird-watching career, and then I want us to find out we have cancer at exactly the same time. Then I remember his wife, the coaster eases downward, and we fall”. “Luster” is SOOOO FRESH... in your face- dialogue... dry humor ...gut-wrenching sad.....but I loved our protagonist.... I was rooting for her... This beautiful vulnerable young woman’s life was messy!!! “I have learned not to be surprised a man’s sudden withdrawal. “It is a tradition that men like Mark and Eric and my father have helped uphold. So I endure Eric’s silence, even as our paths cross in the morning and in the middle of the night. I don’t attempt to break it, so the longer it persists, the more it mutates. For a day or so, it becomes hilarious, and then a little erotic, a seething, suffocating thing that makes me aware of how long it’s been since I’ve been touched. I could find a local man to tide me over, but it feels like too much work. I’ve already done the work with Eric. He knows when I got my first period and I know he is decent to waitstaff, and I’m not interested in sucking the cock of a stranger who has potentially made a waitress cry. There is only so much I can do to save face. I am living in their house and eating their food. I am running out of money and I don’t know how long they will let this go on”. Themes of race, class, sex, depressiveness, are explored... All the while, Edie is smoldering under her own loneliness. Sentences are pulsing with electricity..... I was left breathless by the last page. This bighearted story - absolutely captivating and intimate... will stay with me a long time!!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Raven Leilani's debut novel is a spectacular examination of loneliness and the wish to belong. 23-year-old Edie is adrift: After making some inappropriate sexual choices, she loses her admin job in the publishing industry and finds herself with nowhere to go - until the wife of her married lover takes her in. Edie now witnesses their unhappy marriage first-hand, and she slowly becomes the only confidante of their adoptive daughter Akila who, until then, hardly knew any other black people. The aw Raven Leilani's debut novel is a spectacular examination of loneliness and the wish to belong. 23-year-old Edie is adrift: After making some inappropriate sexual choices, she loses her admin job in the publishing industry and finds herself with nowhere to go - until the wife of her married lover takes her in. Edie now witnesses their unhappy marriage first-hand, and she slowly becomes the only confidante of their adoptive daughter Akila who, until then, hardly knew any other black people. The awkward, surreal scenario brings out the alienation of each character: There is volatile Eric, the husband and digital archivist, who is twice as old as Edie, drowns his unhappiness and insecurity in alcohol and takes her to an amusement park for their first date; there is Rebecca, the wife, who works in a hospital morgue where she archives the stories of dead bodies and who tries to approach her problems logically, but can hardly suppress her rage; there is aptly named Akila (which means "intelligent"), the black teenager who has been passed from family to family and who has already registered way too much for her age ("both hypervisible and invisible: black and alone"); and then of course we have Edie, an orphan haunted by intergenerational trauma who tries to archive and make sense of her life through art: She is an aspiring painter trying to capture her impressions on the canvas and in photographs, but there is no one who encourages her to seriously pursue her talent. For Edie, art is an archive of herself: "I've made my own hunger into a practice, made everyone who passes through my life subject to a close and inappropriate reading that occasionally finds its way, often insufficently, into paint." (And, apparently, also into this novel.) What makes this book so special is Edie's narrative voice: Leilani lets us experience everything through her main character's eyes, and Edie's perceptions are witty and often hilarious, but the heaviness brought about by experiences of racism, sexism, and loneliness always shines through. Both Eric and Rebecca frequently treat her cruelly, turning her into weapon to hurt each other, thus objectifying her and exploiting her trauma. There is a constant sadness about Edie, and her willingness to oblige others is born out of a lack of self-love, of an exhaustion that grinds her down - Edie is depressed and tired of the constant fight to survive: "(...) there will always be a part of me that is ready to die." But there is also a part of Edie that is willing resist: She loves Artemisia Gentileschi's painting "Judith Slaying Holofernes", in which the 17-year-old-artist painted herself killing her mentor after he had raped her. The way Edie clings to "her" Captain Planet mug in the family house is indicative for her search to find something she can call her own. It is masterful how Leilani spins a web between these characters and develops dynamics and interactions that always point back to their profound lack of attachment. The scenes she depicts are mostly realistic, sometimes absurd and always disturbing. In numerous narrative vignettes, we learn about Edie's backstory, and sometimes, the people she encounters open a window into their past by sharing some very telling details with her. I was glued to this fascinating, hypnotizing text, its particular tone and unusual vibe. Raven Leilani (who is also a painter) is a daring author with a very recognizable style, and I hope this novel will get nominated for some awards, because she deserves attention. Oh: And extra points for the scene depicting a job interview at a clown school which reads like a nod to Jesse Ball's Census.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Giveaway win! OH MY FUCKING GOD!!! I love this book! Luster is everything. Its mean spirited, funny, brutally smart, and sad. Raven Leilani's writing reminds me of Gillian Flynn. Like Flynn, Leilani's writing is sharp and raw. Both women write complex and unlikeable women so well. Luster is about Edie a young 23 year old black woman who is lost and lonely. She makes terrible life decisions but she's fully aware of it but she just can't seem to stop. She meets Eric a middle agef white man,who let' Giveaway win! OH MY FUCKING GOD!!! I love this book! Luster is everything. Its mean spirited, funny, brutally smart, and sad. Raven Leilani's writing reminds me of Gillian Flynn. Like Flynn, Leilani's writing is sharp and raw. Both women write complex and unlikeable women so well. Luster is about Edie a young 23 year old black woman who is lost and lonely. She makes terrible life decisions but she's fully aware of it but she just can't seem to stop. She meets Eric a middle agef white man,who let's her know up front that he is married but its an open relationship, his wife Rebecca is has even provided a list of rules for them to follow. As our story unfolds Edie gets pulled more and more into the marriage and finds herself bonding with the couples adopted daughter Akila who is also black. Luster is so amazing. I can't even describe how much I loved this book. Its weird and funny and just crazy. This book just hit my sweet spot and I could not put it down. Read this book when it comes out people! Its a must read!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brenda - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

    Lately, I seem to be interested in stories of the messiness, and complex lives of the characters, and this one does that and does it well. Messy is what our troubled 23-year-old main character Edie is. After losing her job, she moves in with her white older lover, his wife and their adopted black daughter. I won't get into the messiness of all that and leave that for the story. Raven Leilani boldly and bravely creates a distinct POV with Edie, a black woman who is trying to find herself while se Lately, I seem to be interested in stories of the messiness, and complex lives of the characters, and this one does that and does it well. Messy is what our troubled 23-year-old main character Edie is. After losing her job, she moves in with her white older lover, his wife and their adopted black daughter. I won't get into the messiness of all that and leave that for the story. Raven Leilani boldly and bravely creates a distinct POV with Edie, a black woman who is trying to find herself while searching for human connections. Edie is realistic, flawed, and we see her vulnerable side. She makes some ugly mistakes and sometimes walks the line morally. At times I wanted to yell at her, and other times I wanted to hug her. Things get a little uncomfortable here with the dynamics between the characters and, at times, maybe a bit too messy for me. There are some turns to the story that turns a little ugly but Raven Leilani handles it well by showing us through Edie's thoughts without overdramatizing it or makes a point towards anything. However, for someone who loves depth beyond the word written at times, it was a bit deep, complicated for me, and I found myself losing focus with the story, and I did struggle with really connecting to Edie. I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    This was the contradiction that would define me for years, my attempt to secure undiluted solitude and my swift betrayal of this effort once in the spotlight of an interested man. I was pretending not to worry about the consequences of my isolation. But whenever I talked to anyone, I found myself overcompensating for the atrophy of my social muscles. Edie is mostly alone in the world. A 23 year-old black orphan trying to be seen, to be found, while trying to find herself as well. She may not This was the contradiction that would define me for years, my attempt to secure undiluted solitude and my swift betrayal of this effort once in the spotlight of an interested man. I was pretending not to worry about the consequences of my isolation. But whenever I talked to anyone, I found myself overcompensating for the atrophy of my social muscles. Edie is mostly alone in the world. A 23 year-old black orphan trying to be seen, to be found, while trying to find herself as well. She may not be going about this in the best way possible, sleeping with far too many of her workmates, for example. …I have not had too much success with men. This is not a statement of self-pity. This is just a statement of the facts. Here’s a fact: I have great breasts, which have warped my spine. More facts: my salary is very low. I have trouble making friends, and men lose interest in me when I talk…Eric is different. In several ways, in fact, not just that he recognizes the clitoris as more than a fictional body part, that he attends to Edie like an actual person and not merely as a sperm receptacle. He shares his personal history with her, and inquires into hers. What else? Oh, he is white, exactly twice her age, and in an open marriage. (Does that mean nicely ventilated or full of holes?) Raven Leilani - image from Interview Magazine One of the appeals here is how Edie talks about the world she sees around her like Margaret Mead in Samoa, describing the mating habits of the contemporary office worker. It does get numbing a bit as the body count continues to grow. But her observations of the wider world have a sharp comedic edge. To sex up the brand, they invited a popular chef, known for his radical liquid nitrogen ice cream, to write a cookbook. Except then his wife went missing and someone found her frozen foot. While the bike onslaught was not part of the scene when I was driving a yellow cab in Manhattan, (before dedicated lanes) Leilani captures the terror and the energy of midtown traffic, from personal experience: ...the bike lanes in Manhattan already terrifying at 11:00 am, filled with delivery boys and girls who jet into traffic with fried rice and no reason to live. It can be a bit of a problem, though, when you look at the world and your own life as if having an out of body experience, hovering at the ceiling, watching the goings on, while not really experiencing the feelings your own body skin and bones are having down there. Here’s a fact: Her lively social life at work results in her having to find another job. Margaret Mead is back on the case, describing the apocalypse that is the job market for twenty-somethings in New York City, hell, in the NY metro area, and probably the rest of the world too. There are some dark LOL visions to be had here. Try applying for a job at a clown school. Delivering food and miscellaneous by bike in Manhattan. Sometimes pretty funny, but also offering a taste of the desperation Edie is going through, a sample of millennial work life for young black women, even when the work one is seeking is purely of the work-to-live, rather than the live-to-work sort. Toiling to get by so you can do what you really want after hours, in Edie’s case, painting. That was important to me. Don't get me wrong; I have a real soft spot for books that are just about relationships. I love that. But there's always a different kind of engagement and love I feel for writing that involves the dimension of work. That's actually what we spend most of our lives doing. I wanted to talk about how work and art have a symbiotic, but also adversarial relationship. You need money to live and eat, and then to make art, but the job you have can become the thing making it so that you cannot do any living, because you've spent that bandwidth trying to live. I’ve felt that so deeply in my own life, and in the lives of so many women I know. - from Esquire interview Edie truly being an artist reflects the author's life, as she intended to be a visual artist, but concluded that she was just not quite good enough to make it in that field, so shifted to other things. And then she meets Eric’s wife, Rebecca, in Eric’s home, in suburban New Jersey. To add to the mix, Edie is, at this point evicted, out of work, and desperate for a place to live. Rebecca invites her to move in. And if that is not complication enough, this open-relationship-minded couple have adopted a black girl, Akila, and it is as if a black Mary Poppins has dropped in on the East Wind to offer some insight the white suburban parents are simply not equipped to provide. Spit spot. They bond over, among other things, concerns about being kicked out, neither being in a particularly secure situation. The opening of the book is jarring, as Edie is portrayed as sexually promiscuous, which is off-putting, for me certainly, although entertainingly depicted, but once past it, that particular cringe factor fades. The story shifts to the very strange dynamic between Edie and Rebecca, and the very warm dynamic between Edie and Akila, Eric fading into the background. Here’s a fact: Edie is not the nicest person. I almost lose a seat to a woman who gets on at Union Square, but luckily her pregnancy slows her down. The rawness of her character is a major feature. The filter is off. She is not pretending to us the readers that she is a paragon, in contrast to how she has to pretend, to adjust, maybe to manipulate in order to survive in the work world. There is also a feel for some atavistic superstition, She wasn’t simply unphotogenic. She was bare in a way that film betrayed so dramatically that she became grotesque. as if maybe the camera was capable of capturing the soul, but in contemporary America, not Samoa. Edie’s painting is an attempt to capture the life in which she finds herself, as well as a life she has left. Sometimes Luster is sad, I ask my customers to confirm my name, at times to be sure I have the right address, but mostly just to hear the sound. Edie’s loneliness is on display in an uncaring world. Being black and having to deal with police gets a brief look. Nothing unusual here. This is just the way it is. Are we done? Can I get up now? Can I go? Combined with a dose of despair. …the truth is that when the officer had his arm pressed into my neck, there was a part of me that felt like, all right. Like, fine. Because there will always be a part of me that is ready to die. One thing about this book is that if you are reading it like a normal human, and are not constantly stopping to look up references and taking copious notes, (or battling numerous cats for desk space) it is a pretty fast read. But it merits taking it slowly. There is so much going on in this content-rich short novel, a density likelier to be found in work by more experienced writers. Entertaining, eye-opening, penetrating, observant, and a display of considerable power. Here’s a fact: A screaming loud entry of a major new voice in the literary landscape, Luster is no gentle sheen, but a dazzling, sparkling rookie triumph, and Raven Leilani is a heavenly flower of a new writer. Review posted – October 16, 2020 Publication date – August 4, 2020 =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and GR pages Interviews -----Interview Magazine - Raven Leilani Wants to Write About Sex in a Way “That’s Ugly” by Lauren Joseph -----Elle - Raven Leilani Is Your New Favorite Novelist by Roxanne Fequiere -----The Rumpus - Against Respectability: A Conversation with Raven Leilani by Monet Patrice Thomas -----Esquire - Portrait of the Artist as a Young Black Woman: A Conversation With Raven Leilani By Adrienne Westenfeld -----Bookpage - Raven Leilani On her stunning debut: ‘Desire and powerlessness create a combustible byproduct’ by Cat, Deputy Editor Items of Interest by the author -----Esquire - When I Left My Faith, I Went to Comic Con -----Cosmonauts Avenue - Hard Water

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brandice

    Lonely is the word that comes to mind when I think of Luster — The characters are lonely and wanting more. 23 year old Edie begins a relationship with an older married man, Eric Walker. She loses her job in publishing due to citations of inappropriate behavior then gets kicked out of her apartment for failure to pay rent. Following an unexpected encounter, Eric’s wife, Rebecca, takes her in. Edie becomes engrained in the Walker family: continuing to slyly see Eric, accompanying Rebecca to work wh Lonely is the word that comes to mind when I think of Luster — The characters are lonely and wanting more. 23 year old Edie begins a relationship with an older married man, Eric Walker. She loses her job in publishing due to citations of inappropriate behavior then gets kicked out of her apartment for failure to pay rent. Following an unexpected encounter, Eric’s wife, Rebecca, takes her in. Edie becomes engrained in the Walker family: continuing to slyly see Eric, accompanying Rebecca to work where she performs autopsies, and forming a relationship with their adopted Black daughter, Akila. It’s an unusual arrangement to say the least — It felt like they all operated individually, ignoring the elephant in the room that was their dissatisfaction with life and one another. I felt bad for Edie that she was so obviously lonely and didn’t have much of any support system to lean on, or belief in herself as an artist. She also, however, made some questionable choices and it was hard to feel for her and her apathetic effort at times. Luster is far from happy yet I couldn’t put it down — An interesting and well-written story. Looking forward to seeing what Raven Leilani writes next. Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    4 ½ stars (rounded up since this is a debut) “I think to myself, You are a desirable woman. You are not a dozen gerbils in a skin casing. Luster is a deliriously enthralling and boldly subversive debut novel. I was dazzled by the author’s prose, which is by turns dense and supple, by Edie’s sardonic and penetrating narration, and by the story’s caustic yet searing commentary on race, class, gender, and sexuality. “It is that it is 8:15 a.m. and I feel happy. I am not on the L, smelling someone's 4 ½ stars (rounded up since this is a debut) “I think to myself, You are a desirable woman. You are not a dozen gerbils in a skin casing. Luster is a deliriously enthralling and boldly subversive debut novel. I was dazzled by the author’s prose, which is by turns dense and supple, by Edie’s sardonic and penetrating narration, and by the story’s caustic yet searing commentary on race, class, gender, and sexuality. “It is that it is 8:15 a.m. and I feel happy. I am not on the L, smelling someone's lukewarm pickles, wishing I were dead.” Luster follows in the steps of recent releases starring perpetually alienated young women prone to bouts of ennui, numbness, morbidity, lethargy, and self-loathing. They are misanthropic, they often engage in some sort of masochistic behaviour, and a few of them inevitably spiral into self-destructiveness. In short, they are millennial Esther Greenwoods. Luster, however, is by no means a carbon copy of these novels, and Edie’s distinctive voice sets her apart from other eternally dissatisfied protagonists. From the very first pages I found myself mesmerized by Edie’s perplexing and hyper-alert mind. “I want to be uncomplicated and undemanding. I want no friction between his fantasy and the person I actually am. I want all that and I want none of it.” Edie is a recently orphaned 23-year-old black woman who leads a directionless and unfullfilling existence. She’s unenthusiastic about her desk job and with no friends to speak of she tries to allay her loneliness through sex (think Fleabag). After a series of ill-advised sexual encounters, Edie lands herself in trouble and finds herself staying in the home of Eric, her latest date. Eric is a white, forty-something archivist who is in an open marriage with Rebecca. The two live in a very white neighbourhood with their adoptive daughter, Akila, who is black. “There is the potent drug of a keen power imbalance. Of being caught in the excruciating limbo between their disinterest and expertise. Their panic at the world's growing indifference.” Eric, who is clearly in the midst of a mid-life crisis, isn’t a particularly attractive or charming man. Yet, Edie is desperate for intimacy. Although she’s aware of her own self-destructive behaviour, she’s unwilling or unable to form healthy relationships, romantic or not, with others. Although Rebecca is suspicious of Edie, she wants someone to help Akila, someone who can show her how to look after her hair, and seems to adjust to Edie's presence. Edie’s hunger for love, desire, acceptance, recognition, and self-worth dominate her narrative. Her fascination—part desire, part repulsion—with Eric and Rebecca sees her crossing quite a few lines. The couple, in their turn, treat Edie in a very hot-or-cold way or use her as if she was little more than a pawn in their marriage game. “He wants me to be myself like a leopard might be herself in a city zoo. Inert, waiting to be fed. Not out in the wild, with tendon in her teeth.” Edie’s voice makes Luster the crackling read it is. While Edie often entertains rather ridiculous notions, she’s quite capable of making incisive observations about privilege, race, sexism, and modern dating. Throughout the course of the novel Edie makes a lot of discomforting decisions, and more than once I found myself wanting to shake her. But I also really understood her inability to break free of the vicious cycle she’s in (which sees her seeking affirmation and self-love in the wrong places), and of feeling tired by just existing. I loved her unabashedly weird inner monologue and her wry humour (“She tells us the specials in such a way that we know our sole responsibility as patrons in her section is to just go right ahead and fuck ourselves”). Those few glimpses we get of her childhood and her relationship with her mother and father, deepen our understanding of why she is the way she is. “I am good, but not good enough, which is worse than simply being bad. It is almost.” Luster explores the thoughts and experiences of a messy black young woman, without judgement. Like recent shows such as Insecure, Chewing Gum and I Will Destroy You, Luster presents its audience with a narrative that challenges the myth of the ‘strong black woman’ and other existing stereotypes of black womanhood (checkout Amanda's video on 'the quirky/awkward black girl' ). There are times when Edie is awkward, selfish, and angry. Her identity isn't confined to one character trait. And that’s that. Luster charts Edie’s sobering yet mischievous, kind-of-sexy, kind-of-weird, sad but funny search for everything and nothing. She both wants and doesn’t want to form meaningful connections with others, she both wants and doesn’t want to be alone, she wants to be used by others, she wants love. Her art is perhaps one of the few pillars in her life. She describes her paintings, the colours she uses, and the artists she likes (Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ gets a mention) in a very vivid manner. I liked the bond that Edie forms with Akila, one that isn’t uncomplicated but feels like one of the few genuine relationships that appear in this novel (although there were times I liked Rebecca, her intentions towards Edie were ultimately questionable). This is the kind of novel that thrives off uncomfortable truths, awkward interactions, and surreal conversations (that scene at the clown academy was gold). Edie is exhausted by the deluge of microaggressions thrown her way. She tries to be what others want her to be, which is why so many people use her. Even with Eric and Rebecca, Edie is fully aware of being a guest, that she can stay as long as her being there is convenient to them. To be perfectly honest I find these ‘young women afflicted by the malaise of modernity’ type of novels to be very hit-or-miss (Exciting Times was a definite miss for me). Jean Kyoung Frazier’s Pizza Girl (a hit in my books), shares quite a lot in common with Luster. Both books centred on self-sabotaging young women who become increasingly obsessed with someone who is married (this someone leads a seemingly happy white suburban life), although in Pizza Girl our narrator is far more interested in the wife than the husband. Chances are that if you liked the deadpan humour in Pizza Girl you will like Luster. If you are the type of reader who prefers conventionally nice or quirky characters, maybe Luster won't be the read for you. Lucky for me, I can sympathise and care for characters who make terrible choices or do horrible things (see Zaina Arafat's You Exist Too Much, Rachel Lyon's Self-Portrait with Boy). Anyway, I'm rambling. I loved Luster, I loved Edie, and I loved Leilani's prose and her punctuation (that scene that just goes on and on...wow). There were a few references or words that I'm not sure I entirely understood, and I have a feeling this is due to my not being American/native-English speaker. Huge thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an arc. I will definitely be purchasing my own copy once it's available in the UK. Leilani, please, keep writing. A few quotes to give you an idea of what to expect: “I almost lose a seat to a woman who gets on at Union Square, but luckily her pregnancy slows her down.” “In the past three years I have tried to turn lemons into lemonade by reciting old Tumblr affirmations into these mirrors, but it hasn’t helped.” “If I’m honest, all my relationships have been like this, parsing the intent of the jaws that lock around my head. Like, is he kidding, or is he hungry? In other words, all of it, even the love, is a violence.” “I interview well despite my nerves, and while I wish I could take credit for that, my ability to maintain human form and make a good impression is all about my skin. The expectations of me in these settings are frequently so low, it would be impossible not to surpass them.” “This was the contradiction that would define me for years, my attempt to secure undiluted solitude and my swift betrayal of this effort once in the spotlight of an interested man. I was pretending not to worry about the consequences of my isolation. But whenever I talked to anyone, I found myself overcompensating for the atrophy of my social muscles.” “It is not that I want company, but that I want to be affirmed by another pair of eyes.” “In the time we have been talking, my imagination has run wild. Based on his liberal use of the semicolon, I just assumed this date would go well. But everything is different IRL.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A honest portrayal of a 23-year-old Black woman struggling to claim herself amidst falling into a white couple’s open marriage. Raven Leilani’s tone in this novel is wry and sharp. She’s unafraid of showing the messiness and pain in her protagonist’s life, whether that pain comes from racism and sexism or family dynamics gone awry. I struggled to connect with Edie, our main character, I think because of Leilani’s writing style. The writing in Luster felt jagged to me, with lots of sentences that A honest portrayal of a 23-year-old Black woman struggling to claim herself amidst falling into a white couple’s open marriage. Raven Leilani’s tone in this novel is wry and sharp. She’s unafraid of showing the messiness and pain in her protagonist’s life, whether that pain comes from racism and sexism or family dynamics gone awry. I struggled to connect with Edie, our main character, I think because of Leilani’s writing style. The writing in Luster felt jagged to me, with lots of sentences that flowed for a long time followed by short and static sentences. There’s a discursiveness to the prose that others have described as “dreamlike,” though this stream-of-consciousness distanced me from the narrator even during her more emotional moments. I appreciated Edie coming into her artistic being toward the end of the novel as well as her bond with Akila, the white couple’s Black daughter.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    Sometimes I have wished I could step inside the pages of a book and become for a time a character in the story. It would be fun and exciting to live in the world inhabited by these characters. However, in the book, Luster, I would never want to be a single one of these characters. They were all lost in the quagmire of their lives. Hurt, unsure, depressed, and morose might be apt adjectives for the four characters. Yet, while this was a sad, pessimistic story, it was one that quickly became fasci Sometimes I have wished I could step inside the pages of a book and become for a time a character in the story. It would be fun and exciting to live in the world inhabited by these characters. However, in the book, Luster, I would never want to be a single one of these characters. They were all lost in the quagmire of their lives. Hurt, unsure, depressed, and morose might be apt adjectives for the four characters. Yet, while this was a sad, pessimistic story, it was one that quickly became fascinating as it was well written and enticed the reader to enter this dispirited world the characters found themselves in. Edie, poor Edie, a young black woman, thinks of herself as a sexual object only seeming to derive pleasure from the act and never really seeing herself as an emerging gifted artist. She arrives at a point in her life where she is living with the married man, Erik, she has sex with, his wife, a medical examiner, and their adopted black daughter. They seem almost like mirages as they drift in and out of happenings, colorless, and cast into a sea of crestfallen lives. There seems to be no sense in lives that seem senseless, and yet Edie strives to be a number of things, an artist, a guide to Akila, and someone struggling to overcome sexual and racial mores in a time of fluctuating concepts and ideas. This is not a happy book, one where everything comes up smelling like roses in the end. However, it is a book filled with questions and the knowledge of how to find your way in this world we are living in. What rules do we follow when there seems to be no rules? Or is our life a painting or a photograph captured of us that makes us become real in the eyes of ourselves and the world? Thank you to Raven Leilani, Farrar, Straus and Giroux , and NetGalley for a copy of this new author's book due out August 4, 2020. This would be excellent book for a book club discussion.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    My opinion of this book will not be popular. I hated it. And that is my short but not so sweet review. At least it was an Overdrive loan. 1 star!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    “Luster” by debut novelist Raven Leilani has received a load of press. Its basic press push is a young black woman getting involved in an open marriage of white people. That premise did not interest me, but all the press…. all the press…I decided to read it myself. Well, there are so many complications involved in this black woman’s life that those complications murk’s the premise. The story is told in narrative form from Edie, our millennial protagonist who is not likable, is a disturbing charac “Luster” by debut novelist Raven Leilani has received a load of press. Its basic press push is a young black woman getting involved in an open marriage of white people. That premise did not interest me, but all the press…. all the press…I decided to read it myself. Well, there are so many complications involved in this black woman’s life that those complications murk’s the premise. The story is told in narrative form from Edie, our millennial protagonist who is not likable, is a disturbing character. Edie is rudderless and we soon find uses her “blackness” for shoddy work performance. She knows better, but just can’t get out of her own way. She gets fired and through an unrealistic plot twist, ends up being asked to live with the white couple by the wife. For me, there were too many unrealistic plots twists to find this too thought-provoking. Adulting is not easy, and author Leilani shows how easy it is to make mistakes. Edie has major baggage, which explains some of her poor choices and her poor self-worth. Her personal observations are acerbically funny and tragically funny and not funny at all. I was disgusted by her and wanted to mother her all at the same time. Eric, the man of the open marriage is a mysterious character. I didn’t understand how Edie and Elizabeth (the wife) were attracted to him. He possessed no redeeming charm. Elizabeth is a complicated character who Leilani wrote possessing self-respect; why and how she ended up with Eric is a mystery. That is another unrealistic piece of the story I felt was weak. The press also billed it as a young woman trying to make sense of her life. That premise is fulfilled. Edie is a budding artist, and in her efforts to become a successful artist are authentically written. The interaction between all the characters, well for me, seemed very unreal. Maybe because I’m in my 60’s I didn’t get the nuances of the story. Perhaps the target audience is a more youthful reader. The coming-of-age/adulting part I found emotionally revealing. The whole set-up of the open marriage and family life, and the man who attracted these two women, well, it fell short for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    It’s good, it’s excellent, it’s remarkable! OMG! I couldn’t expect to love Edie so much! For a long time I haven’t connected with a character and heard her from deep in my heart. This book is the real proof that no matter what is your gender, age, socioeconomic status, nationality, profession, choice, experience, you may truly feel like a complete f*cked up by losing your entire path or feel like you turned your life into a real mess! You may feel lost, confused, stand at the shaky ground, walk It’s good, it’s excellent, it’s remarkable! OMG! I couldn’t expect to love Edie so much! For a long time I haven’t connected with a character and heard her from deep in my heart. This book is the real proof that no matter what is your gender, age, socioeconomic status, nationality, profession, choice, experience, you may truly feel like a complete f*cked up by losing your entire path or feel like you turned your life into a real mess! You may feel lost, confused, stand at the shaky ground, walk in the dark not to see what’s going on behind your eyes! Ravel Leilani’s writing style is pure, genuine, honest, clever, direct, bare, plain, gut wrenching which helps you feel like you meet with those characters at the coffee shop and listen their true stories from their own mouths as you share laughs, cries, gossips, confessions just like you’re old friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time. Edie is only in her early 20’s, dreaming of being a true artist, financially, mentally, physically suffers from her circumstances and shitty life hand she’s dealt with. She’s an orphan and the best way to express her loneliness, rejections she has gotten throughout her short life is putting her anger, her hatred, her sadness, her abandonment to her art by painting the canvasses with the vivid perspectives she’s bottled up. But she has no mentor or a real friend to show her the right direction or encourage her about her rare talent. Her improper sexual choices and losing her job at publishing industry when she was already barely making her ends meet, make things worse and put herself in a position to live in streets. But thankfully her lover who is twice her age and married Eric offers her to live with his family house. Oh, right. I know you found it weird but don’t worry, Eric is a melodramatic archivist who has an open marriage( like Brad Pitt’s new model girlfriend and her 68 years old husband, this was the TMZ alert at my review!) trying to find the real happiness from pure bliss of alcohol bottles. And her pragmatic, logical wife Rebecca who is working at the hospital morgue, archiving stories of death people. Edie connects with their adopted, black teenage daughter Akila ( her name means intelligent just like the owner carries it) also has a short but traumatized life like a gift passed through people, she has lived with different families. As you imagine, the dynamics of their unconventional and dysfunctional relationship between them turns into more complex, irrational mess at each day. This book is thought provoking, intense, raw, original, stimulating and extremely exhilarating masterpiece. I enjoyed the struggling, problematic, psychologically broken and unbalanced characters’ different and straightforward approaches. It’s so much outstanding and unpredictable journey for me! Maybe it’s one of my most surprising readings of the year because I didn’t expect to love it so much. But I did! I WHOLEHEARTEDLY LOVED IT! This was Goodreads Giveaway. I cannot thank enough to Mimi Chan for sending me this special book which is so much better than most gifts I get at my birthday. As a last sentence: go and give it a try to this unique journey! blog instagram facebook twitter

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    4.5/5 Stars Get your highlighters ready! Luster introduces us to Raven Leilani, a new voice in fiction that will knock your socks off. I had to force myself to slow down when reading because one minute you’re talking about the L train and the next sentence contains a pivotal revelation about our MC, Edie. The writing is so fluid and unpretentious, yet carries such depth. Ms. Leilani has incredible talent and will definitely be added as an auto buy author. As for the story, this is a book that hel 4.5/5 Stars Get your highlighters ready! Luster introduces us to Raven Leilani, a new voice in fiction that will knock your socks off. I had to force myself to slow down when reading because one minute you’re talking about the L train and the next sentence contains a pivotal revelation about our MC, Edie. The writing is so fluid and unpretentious, yet carries such depth. Ms. Leilani has incredible talent and will definitely be added as an auto buy author. As for the story, this is a book that held my attention from the beginning. This could easily be any 20-30 something today. Edie is struggling and wryly aware of her circumstances. Edie’s observations and commentary gave me great pause and urged me to look at things differently. Lastly, no character in this book escapes feeling lost. I think it demonstrates that you can fall off your center axis no matter your age, race or socioeconomic status. We are all human. However, the battle to overcome is longer and harder for some; especially those without a strong support system. Watching Edie uniquely navigate each situation thrown at her was eye opening, inspiring and heart breaking. What a book! Thanks to Jonathan Woollen at Farrar, Straus & Giroux for his generosity in providing me with a print copy to read and review. Thank you also to Raven Leilani for the sharing your story with all of us. Review Date: 08/04/2020 Publication Date: 08/04/2020

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Dacus

    Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fatma

    Thanks so much to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley! I feel like Luster is another installment in a series of books that I'm gonna call Dysfunctional Women Being Dysfunctional—which theoretically, I'm all for, but in actuality I've been disappointed by more often than not, this novel included. Luster is Leilani's debut book, and there are definitely glimmers of sharp, wry writing to be found here. One of my favourites: "In the time we have been talking, Thanks so much to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley! I feel like Luster is another installment in a series of books that I'm gonna call Dysfunctional Women Being Dysfunctional—which theoretically, I'm all for, but in actuality I've been disappointed by more often than not, this novel included. Luster is Leilani's debut book, and there are definitely glimmers of sharp, wry writing to be found here. One of my favourites: "In the time we have been talking, my imagination has run wild. Based on his liberal use of the semicolon, I just assumed this date would go well." (lol) That being said, I can't really say that I enjoyed this novel. This is a novel that is immensely bogged down by its own moroseness. The main character, Edie, undergoes humiliation after humiliation with no break and nothing even close to resembling happy to temper that humiliation. I think the novel articulates its own spirit when Edie thinks, "...the debris around the drain not enough to deter me from lying down in the tub and being dramatic, humiliation being such that it sometimes requires a private performance, which I give myself, and emerge from the shower in the next stage of hurt feelings." And that's exactly it: reading this novel feels like reading a performance of humiliation ("performance" in the sense that it's a presentation of humiliation, not in the sense that that humiliation is performative or "fake," somehow). And the writing compounds this performance to the novel's detriment. Leilani's writing is simultaneously too verbose and too clipped, both over- and underwritten: at times she elaborates on moments that don't need to be elaborated on, and at others she breezes through monumental emotional moments as if they were nothing. It felt like the novel was working at cross-purposes from what I wanted. Of course, what all of this means is, this book was written in a style that wasn't to my taste. That being said, I think there's definitely people for whom this book's style will work. If you liked Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Miranda Popkey's Topics of Conversation, or Naoise Dolan's upcoming Exciting Times, you'll like Luster. I will also point out the fact that Luster is an ownvoices novel told from the perspective of a black woman, whereas all those books I just mentioned are from white women's perspectives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    Please! Do not sleep on this book! Whoa Chile!!! what a mess!!! I LOVED it!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell

    2010 Nenia would have been like ????? 2020 Nenia is like YAAAAS SMUTTY LITERATURE GIMMIE Because 2020 Nenia is wiser

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    It is no secret that I adore books with a difficult female main character, so it’s no surprise that I was beyond excited to get to this book – and I adored (seriously adored) the first thirty percent: Edie is wonderfully flawed and interesting and her narration is pitch-perfect. I adored the mix between long run-on sentences and shorter, punchier ones. I was certain this would be my favourite book of the year. I am not quite sure what happened then but by the end I was not quite as enamored and It is no secret that I adore books with a difficult female main character, so it’s no surprise that I was beyond excited to get to this book – and I adored (seriously adored) the first thirty percent: Edie is wonderfully flawed and interesting and her narration is pitch-perfect. I adored the mix between long run-on sentences and shorter, punchier ones. I was certain this would be my favourite book of the year. I am not quite sure what happened then but by the end I was not quite as enamored and ultimately I was glad to be done with it. Maybe it was the endless parade of humiliations (I get a very bad case of secondhand embarrassment that makes reading something like this very difficult), maybe it was the way in which the narrative became unfocussed – but even if I didn’t love it the whole way through; what an impressive debut. As my thoughts are all over the place, so will be my review, but please bear with me as I am trying to figure out my exact feelings (and rating). The biggest draw of a book like this is always the main character and Edie fits wonderfully in the canon of what Rachel has called “disaster women” – or rather, she expands on it. Because as a Black woman, her decisions have more far reaching consequences, more dangerous implications. And for this alone, I loved this book. I loved how Edie is unflinchingly aware of what being a Black woman in the middle of a difficult personal time entails. Unflinchingly aware is a good way to describe Edie in general; she is always aware of what her decisions might mean and then she does stupid things anyways – I appreciated that facet of her personality. Ultimately, this is a book about loneliness; unbearable, all-encompassing loneliness is what defines all four of the book’s main characters, but most of all Edie who has lost her (difficult) parents young and does not know what she wants out of her life. Her loneliness is most obvious when she chooses to remain in situations that are humiliating beyond measure just to avoid being alone. But the married couple she gets entangled with is also lonely, even in their coupledom, and their adopted daughter seems to have accepted her own loneliness in a way that made my heart hurt. Overall, an incredibly impressive debut that thankfully is getting the accolades it deserves. I will for sure be reading whatever Raven Leilani publishes next because this mix of incredible prose and interesting characters is my literary fiction catnip. Content warnings: violent sex, vomit, miscarriage, asphyxiation, loss of a loved one (backstory), racism, police brutality, cheating I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    When I think about how to describe this novel, I keep coming back to the same phrase: fever dream. It isn't realist, exactly. It isn't surrealist, exactly. It's somewhere between the two, some weird swirled mix of hyper-reality and not-exactly-reality that leaves you just enough off kilter that you never know which way it's going to go next. It's unique and weird and bold. At first Edie will remind you of other self-destructive young women you've seen in other literary novels. She is aimless and When I think about how to describe this novel, I keep coming back to the same phrase: fever dream. It isn't realist, exactly. It isn't surrealist, exactly. It's somewhere between the two, some weird swirled mix of hyper-reality and not-exactly-reality that leaves you just enough off kilter that you never know which way it's going to go next. It's unique and weird and bold. At first Edie will remind you of other self-destructive young women you've seen in other literary novels. She is aimless and at sea, making terrible decisions especially when it comes to men. But from the very beginning there was something about Edie that hit a little too close to home. The Too Real felt a little Too Real, and this discomfort only grows as the novel expands. Edie starts dating a married man in an open relationship (mark this as the first novel with an open relationship/polyamory as a major element where I haven't rolled my eyes five times and then quit reading it) and even though she knows it is not a good decision, she clings to it because it is something. Things eventually get Weird and it is only when it has been a bit and everyone just acts like the Weird is normal and that happens 3 or 4 times that you realize that this isn't just a realistic novel about our modern times, it is something else entirely. (Even though it is still about our modern times somehow.) When we talk about why we need new and diverse voices, this novel is such a great example of why. Leilani's style and prose are uniquely her own just like her point of view as a young Black woman. The fact that much of the book is set in a white well-off suburban home--the scene of many a modern literary novel by a white man--only makes everything new and different she brings to it even more notable. I did have to force myself to slow down. Leilani often has very long paragraphs, my mortal enemy because my tendency to skim kicks in, especially since the Weird can be mentioned so casually that it doesn't draw attention to itself. But I was always happy to read it, it never felt like work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Melanie (mells_view)

    “You’re not going to feel better about this,” I say. “You’re going to feel angry, for a long time, and that’s your right.” This book is untamed, poignant, and oddly relatable. While the writing style took me a bit to find a groove with, once I did I was hooked. Luster is bold and authentic, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The author doesn’t hold back with her characters. They are who they are. Just real. Unlikable at times, but also people you feel for because they are so real. This boo “You’re not going to feel better about this,” I say. “You’re going to feel angry, for a long time, and that’s your right.” This book is untamed, poignant, and oddly relatable. While the writing style took me a bit to find a groove with, once I did I was hooked. Luster is bold and authentic, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The author doesn’t hold back with her characters. They are who they are. Just real. Unlikable at times, but also people you feel for because they are so real. This book reads like an insincere apology for living. “I think of how keenly I’ve been wrong. I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ankit Garg

    Luster by Raven Leilani is a debut book with lengthy sentences and an unusual narration style, so much so that at times it is difficult to follow the story. This makes it tough to enjoy. That being said, the dry humor is on point, and is one of the best I have read in a long time. Mostly well-written, the author strays from the central topic at hand several times in order to elaborate on something totally irrelevant. On the contrary, certain moments that deserved explanations in my opinion are dr Luster by Raven Leilani is a debut book with lengthy sentences and an unusual narration style, so much so that at times it is difficult to follow the story. This makes it tough to enjoy. That being said, the dry humor is on point, and is one of the best I have read in a long time. Mostly well-written, the author strays from the central topic at hand several times in order to elaborate on something totally irrelevant. On the contrary, certain moments that deserved explanations in my opinion are driven through in a couple of sentences. If this was intentional, I don't see the reason why. Thanks to the author and the publisher for the ARC. Verdict: Read it for its mocking humor.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emily B

    A debut worth reading! This is my kind of writing, sometimes uncomfortable but totally raw and honest. I enjoyed reading about Edies messy life and painful existence and I look forward to more from this author. ‘I think of how keenly I've been wrong. I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men’

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    "A way is always made to document how we manage to survive, or in some cases, how we don't. So I've tried to reproduce an inscrutable thing. I've made my own hunger into a practice, made everyone who passes through my life subject to a close and inappropriate reading that occasionally finds its way, often insufficiently, into paint. And when I am alone with myself, this is what I am waiting for someone to do to me, with merciless, deliberate hands, to put me down onto the canvas so that when I'm "A way is always made to document how we manage to survive, or in some cases, how we don't. So I've tried to reproduce an inscrutable thing. I've made my own hunger into a practice, made everyone who passes through my life subject to a close and inappropriate reading that occasionally finds its way, often insufficiently, into paint. And when I am alone with myself, this is what I am waiting for someone to do to me, with merciless, deliberate hands, to put me down onto the canvas so that when I'm gone, there will be a record, proof that I was here." Raven Leilani’s hypnotic debut novel, Luster, is every bit as cathartic as it is cerebral in its devotion to one Black woman’s pursuit of harmless passion and purpose in an era inured to uncertainty. Such is the plight of a young woman named Edie who — staggering over the hurdles of misogynoir as an editorial coordinator and aspiring artist — wills herself into an open marriage at the temptation of an older white man she meets online named Eric. Suddenly homeless and unemployed, Edie is surprised when, after being caught rummaging through her home, Rebecca — the wife — meets Edie’s cynicism with compassion, permits their tryst to continue (under her terms), and extends shelter and money in exchange for one request: serve as confidante to their adopted Black teenage daughter, Akila. What emerges from this extraordinary invitation — the incubus of Edie’s suffering and rueful affection, a blood-deep sisterhood between Black girls — is the pulverizing story of a woman discovering the ways her weaknesses can set her free. Luster marks the arrival of a writer who inflames her pages with an infinite scroll of pathos and precision that made this debut novel mercilessly unputdownable. So it should come as no surprise when Leilani takes her place on the front lines of the new literary generation. Mark my words, Raven is a phoenix on the rise. If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    And when I am alone with myself, this is what I am waiting for someone to do to me, with merciless, deliberate hands, to put me down onto the canvas so that when I'm gone, there will be a record, proof that I was here. Here's the thing: I loved Leilani's writing which is smart and characterful and full of flair, witty and dry and tender - but I didn't love this story. The narrative voice is so good, but I found it really hard to be convinced by what is happening at the plot level. And while E And when I am alone with myself, this is what I am waiting for someone to do to me, with merciless, deliberate hands, to put me down onto the canvas so that when I'm gone, there will be a record, proof that I was here. Here's the thing: I loved Leilani's writing which is smart and characterful and full of flair, witty and dry and tender - but I didn't love this story. The narrative voice is so good, but I found it really hard to be convinced by what is happening at the plot level. And while Edie herself is a complicated figure of modern young femininity who also happens to be Black, the other characters feel weirdly unfinished. The good stuff for me are the sheer style of the writing: Leilani is subtle (that symbolism quite early on where Edie empathises with the trapped mouse which is going to be eaten by the neighbourhood cat any day...), and she is wonderful on the nagging constant undertow of casual racism akin to that captured by Everyday Sexism. She's also spot-on with the uncomfortable little touches of urban life - the moment when Edie triumphs over a pregnant woman by snagging the train seat, which is also a lovely touch of characterisation and mood. So what I'm saying is that I'd read Leilani again like a shot - but I just couldn't engage with the plot/story this time. Thanks to Picador for an ARC via NetGalley

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Janson

    “It's that there are gray, anonymous hours like this. Hours when I am desperate, when I am ravenous, when I know how a star becomes a void.” A young Black woman, Edie, an aspiring artist just fired from a publishing job, is living day-to-day, and now she’s lost her apartment too. She meets Eric online, a white man who is much older than her, successful, and happens to have an open marriage. After not hearing from Eric for awhile, Edie goes to the couple’s home and enters without permission. She p “It's that there are gray, anonymous hours like this. Hours when I am desperate, when I am ravenous, when I know how a star becomes a void.” A young Black woman, Edie, an aspiring artist just fired from a publishing job, is living day-to-day, and now she’s lost her apartment too. She meets Eric online, a white man who is much older than her, successful, and happens to have an open marriage. After not hearing from Eric for awhile, Edie goes to the couple’s home and enters without permission. She pokes around, but accidentally runs into the wife, Rebecca, who bizarrely invites her to stay. Intriguing right? The couple eventually asks Edie to move in with them with the stipulation that she help out with their adopted teenage daughter, Akila. Edie is infatuated with this entire family so she agrees to stay. Akila doesn’t know any other Black women in the community so she immediately bonds with Edie. It’s an interesting premise and one I’ve never encountered in a book before. LUSTER not only has a gorgeous cover, it’s an enthralling, intoxicating debut. I couldn’t tear myself away until I finished the last page. Reading Edie’s narrative is evocative, eye opening, and mesmerizing. Her keen observations do not go unnoticed and the relationship between the two women is brilliant. Leilani’s writing is sharp, lyrical, dark in nature, sexy, and beautiful. Trust me, you will mark up your book, calling out all of the exceptional passages. No matter where you turn you can learn something from this book - LUSTER is just plain extraordinary. Thank you so much FSG for my free copy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    I was disappointed in the writing, especially for a book from FSG. It seemed flat and uninspired and a little predictable and not very mindful. The writing gave the impression that the book's narrator was not an interesting person. I kept experiencing little hiccups in my brain as I read where I wanted the language to be more precise in a given sentence. Even if the novel's narrative voice is meant to reflect a character who is not terribly connected with her thoughts and her choices, her voice I was disappointed in the writing, especially for a book from FSG. It seemed flat and uninspired and a little predictable and not very mindful. The writing gave the impression that the book's narrator was not an interesting person. I kept experiencing little hiccups in my brain as I read where I wanted the language to be more precise in a given sentence. Even if the novel's narrative voice is meant to reflect a character who is not terribly connected with her thoughts and her choices, her voice should be distinguishable from the next novel on the shelf...and listen, everyone but me is going to read and love this novel. I've felt this way about a few 2020 novels, where the language feels almost deliberately written to be uninteresting, but no one else seems to mind.

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