Luster
Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani's debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else's open marriageEdie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She's also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren't hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric's family life, his home. 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.Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

Luster Details

TitleLuster
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 1st, 1970
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary

Luster Review

  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    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!
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    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!!!
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  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    2010 Nenia would have been like ?????2020 Nenia is like YAAAAS SMUTTY LITERATURE GIMMIEBecause 2020 Nenia is wiser
  • Lucy Dacus
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow.
  • Never Without a Book
    January 1, 1970
    Please! Do not sleep on this book! Whoa Chile!!! what a mess!!! I LOVED it!!
  • Ankit Garg
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    "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.
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Resh (The Book Satchel)
    January 1, 1970
    Luster follows Edie (Edith), a young black woman who lives in New York and works in publishing. She is broke and hardly makes enough for rent and other necessities. She doesn't shy away from new men and sex and some of her bad sex-decisions at the workplace cost her job. She then finds herself in the middle of a suburban white couple’s open marriage. I LOVED the book. It is a joy to find a book that pays such attention to crafting characters. You can predict how the book is going to end. But I w Luster follows Edie (Edith), a young black woman who lives in New York and works in publishing. She is broke and hardly makes enough for rent and other necessities. She doesn't shy away from new men and sex and some of her bad sex-decisions at the workplace cost her job. She then finds herself in the middle of a suburban white couple’s open marriage. I LOVED the book. It is a joy to find a book that pays such attention to crafting characters. You can predict how the book is going to end. But I would still recommend it for the way it makes you feel. It is morose, sad, witty in a dark way and the kind that you do not want to leave. I was heavily invested in the characters. I was keen to follow the three of them to see how it is all going to end. The white couple have adopted a black child and the novel also explores how the marriage and the parenthood in general plays out for the child.Raven Leilani surprises us with twists, unpredictability in her characters, hurried pacing at times and sudden shifts. Each character is mysterious in its own way. Is the husband happy in the marriage? The wife, with a job that deals with cadavers, calls it a form of art. Edie, an artist herself, tries to find the muse to paint.A brill debut. I will be thinking of this for a long timeRating: 4.5/5 Much thanks to FSG for an e-copy of the book. All opinions are my own.Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
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  • Sheena
    January 1, 1970
    Luster by Raven Leilani is about a Black young woman named Edie who makes a bunch of poor choices, knows that she is but continues to do so anyway. The wife of Edie’s lover takes her in when she loses her job and apartment. Both Eric and Rebecca treat her coldly even though they offered her home to her thus making her feel more alone.Edie is witty and has a dry humor. You can feel her sense of exhaustion and lack of energy towards living. She battles in finding the will to live yet has hope to b Luster by Raven Leilani is about a Black young woman named Edie who makes a bunch of poor choices, knows that she is but continues to do so anyway. The wife of Edie’s lover takes her in when she loses her job and apartment. Both Eric and Rebecca treat her coldly even though they offered her home to her thus making her feel more alone.Edie is witty and has a dry humor. You can feel her sense of exhaustion and lack of energy towards living. She battles in finding the will to live yet has hope to be someone and uses art as a way to make sense of herself. Important topics such as racism, sexism, and loneliness is displayed throughout the book. I think it's important for books on diverse characters to become more prevalent. The writing didn't sit that well with me, unfortunately. There were extremely long sentences that almost seemed like they ran on forever but then would be a followed by a bunch of short ones. Because of that I found it distracting and it made me want to start skimming. Aside from that, it was different than what I’ve ever read before and pretty good for a debut.Thanks to the publisher and to netgalley for the advanced copy.
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  • Fatma
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Jessica Klahr
    January 1, 1970
    This book was slightly different than I was expecting, but I liked what it actually turned into better. It definitely lived up to the hype for me. Edie is a precocious young woman who in her early twenties finds herself unemployed, mostly due to too much fraternization with her male coworkers at the publishing house she worked at, and soon to be in the market for a new place to stay, after her landlord decided to hike up the rent. Meanwhile, she’s met a man on a dating app who is in his forties This book was slightly different than I was expecting, but I liked what it actually turned into better. It definitely lived up to the hype for me. Edie is a precocious young woman who in her early twenties finds herself unemployed, mostly due to too much fraternization with her male coworkers at the publishing house she worked at, and soon to be in the market for a new place to stay, after her landlord decided to hike up the rent. Meanwhile, she’s met a man on a dating app who is in his forties and in an open marriage. They hit it off immediately and she soon finds herself sucked into his orbit. To say Leilani is a strong writer would be an understatement. Edie is an extremely intelligent narrator and her understanding of her desires and her emotions are developed way beyond her years. Leilani’s vocabulary is enviable, which casts a filter of importance over the most mundane parts of the story and makes them pop. While it seemed like the complexities of Edie’s relationship would be the focus, the weird intimacy she is able to achieve with his wife and later his daughter is where the power of the book truly lies. They are precarious intimacies, to say the least, but their timebomb comfortability and caring for one another was admirable. The push and pull of her relationship was also interesting to witness.I liked the linear narration and the little asides, like the group attending comic con together, and Edie interviewing at a clown school, and her time playing video games with the daughter rounded out the story well. I was surprised that there wasn’t much sex in this book, especially given how it started out, but that could also be attributed to the lack of significance her relationship with Eric ends up having. This book was a wild ride and a great addition to the strong young female narrator cannon.
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  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    5+ out of 5.Wowowowowowow.This novel starts out very much in the post-Bridget-Jones vein of Young Woman About Town Trying to Figure Out Her Life -- but holy shit does it go to different places than Helen Fielding could ever fucking fathom. Edie is at the bottom end of Millennial, maybe even a Gen Z-er, trying to eke out a living in New York and fucking her way through her office when she meets an older, married white man who she starts seeing. Their relationship intensifies, and quickly, to the 5+ out of 5.Wowowowowowow.This novel starts out very much in the post-Bridget-Jones vein of Young Woman About Town Trying to Figure Out Her Life -- but holy shit does it go to different places than Helen Fielding could ever fucking fathom. Edie is at the bottom end of Millennial, maybe even a Gen Z-er, trying to eke out a living in New York and fucking her way through her office when she meets an older, married white man who she starts seeing. Their relationship intensifies, and quickly, to the point that by about page 50 we've met the wife and things go off from there.This whole fucking book is terrific, one surprise after another, and the final ~50 pages are a breathless gulp to behold. Racism, class, New York, ~nerd culture~, bodies, art... gosh, it is all here. And handled with the most incisive language; there are paragraphs on paragraphs that you just want to write down, snapshot, squirrel away because they're so damn good.What an astonishing novel this is.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    Luster is Raven Leilani’s polished and stimulating debut novel, situated sometimes uncomfortably at the intersections of race, class, and generations. It’s the story of Edie, a twenty-three year old Black woman who loses her editorial job in a publishing house after accusations of inappropriate behavior: what guy in the office didn’t Edie hook up with, and what guy in the office would be fired for the same behavior? Edie lives in a dreary Brooklyn walkup with a roomie, an apartment that familiar Luster is Raven Leilani’s polished and stimulating debut novel, situated sometimes uncomfortably at the intersections of race, class, and generations. It’s the story of Edie, a twenty-three year old Black woman who loses her editorial job in a publishing house after accusations of inappropriate behavior: what guy in the office didn’t Edie hook up with, and what guy in the office would be fired for the same behavior? Edie lives in a dreary Brooklyn walkup with a roomie, an apartment that familiar to any young professional barely scraping by in New York City. Edie’s parents are dead. Speaking of her married lover, Edie tell us that ”it turns out that maybe he is the only friend I have”. Love, affection, emotional engagement, friendships, enjoyment: all absent from Edie’s life. The puzzle at the core of Luster is Edie’s relationship with her lover and his wife, their relationship with each other, and how they tolerate Edie. For fear of spilling the beans, I’ll skip the details. This is a cast of difficult to understand characters. The couple’s recently adopted daughter seems both most sympathetic and most emotionally accessible. Raven Leilani’s Edie reminded me at times of Jean Rhys’ early protagonists, especially Julia Martin in After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie. Of course, the differences between Leilani and Rhys, and between Edie and Julia, are obvious and many. But Leilani partially succeeds where Rhys succeeded brilliantly, in portraying a largely blank, anomic, and disconnected life, and portraying a woman simultaneously unlikable and sympathetic. Rhys is among my few favorite novelists. Luster might have been improved by a dose of Rhys’ vicious prose parsimony and even by Rhys single minded adherence to bleakness, rather than Leilani’s ending Luster with Edie’s unexpected epiphany of redeeming self-discovery. On a more trivial note, Luster would have also been improved by copy editor alert enough to pick up on Leilani’s weird fixation with “twenty-three,” as in Edie’s age, the age difference between Edie and her married lover, the age of Edie’s landlord, and the age when Edie’s ”aunt Claudia would emerge from a small Harlem cult”.3.5 stars
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  • Jaime
    January 1, 1970
    FSG Books #gifted | I finished LUSTER by Raven Leilani in March and whew, it was really really good⁠⠀⁠⠀LUSTER is Raven's debut and she is a force. This story is about a portrait of young Black woman, Edie, who is having a hard time when it comes to her job, her living arrangement and her sexual choices. She then meets an older white man, Eric, and is thrust into an open marriage. Edie is then propositioned by Eric's wife to be a confidant to their adopted Black teenage daughter, Akila ⁠⠀⁠⠀The wr FSG Books #gifted | I finished LUSTER by Raven Leilani in March and whew, it was really really good⁠⠀⁠⠀LUSTER is Raven's debut and she is a force. This story is about a portrait of young Black woman, Edie, who is having a hard time when it comes to her job, her living arrangement and her sexual choices. She then meets an older white man, Eric, and is thrust into an open marriage. Edie is then propositioned by Eric's wife to be a confidant to their adopted Black teenage daughter, Akila ⁠⠀⁠⠀The writing here was perfect. The story itself was sharp, dark yet tender, and aching yet masterful. My experience will reading this one was a fever dream. It was unputdownable too. This one is out in August!⁠⠀
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsI have a hard time putting into words what I think about this book. I didn't really like the characters and I found the story sad. There is quite a bit of social commentary though. Now please understand that a book does not need likeable characters to be a good book. There are some books where the only reason why I read them is because of the [email protected]$$ antagonist. Sometimes you need a character you love to hate to drive the novel. But Luster is not that type of novel. All the characters ar 3.5 starsI have a hard time putting into words what I think about this book. I didn't really like the characters and I found the story sad. There is quite a bit of social commentary though. Now please understand that a book does not need likeable characters to be a good book. There are some books where the only reason why I read them is because of the [email protected]$$ antagonist. Sometimes you need a character you love to hate to drive the novel. But Luster is not that type of novel. All the characters are suffering and throughout the book we see them archiving their loneliness and sorrow in different ways. It doesn't matter what skin they are in - young, old, black, white, rich or poor -- there is pain and desolation here. And you wait a long time for Edie to find her inner beauty and shine. In the end she discovers more about who she is, but she has not come full circle yet. As I was reading there were sentences that stopped me in my tracks. All I could say is "Wow! That's deep!" There was poetry in the language and a depth of understanding the human condition. Then there were other times where I felt that the text was too cerebral. I felt that the writing got in the way of emoting the feelings. From this debut it is obvious that Raven Leilani is very talented and creative. I am interested in seeing what she does next.
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  • Tracy Marie
    January 1, 1970
    This is not the kind of book I would normally read. I would not have an open marriage or want to be introduced to an open marriage, but often we find ourselves reading things that are very different from the life we live, and we learn from that. Reading the synopses, I expected something very different from this book. The author delivered much more than what is exposed in the synopses. Raven Leilani is an expert at weaving words, sentences, and paragraphs together that hold so much, but deliver This is not the kind of book I would normally read. I would not have an open marriage or want to be introduced to an open marriage, but often we find ourselves reading things that are very different from the life we live, and we learn from that. Reading the synopses, I expected something very different from this book. The author delivered much more than what is exposed in the synopses. Raven Leilani is an expert at weaving words, sentences, and paragraphs together that hold so much, but deliver in a simple flowing way that you find yourself, turning the next page, arriving at the next chapter and then you're just done and you have ridden this ride with Edie that you never really intended to stay on. I imagine that is how Edie felt as she went through life.I personally thought Edie, the main character, made terrible choices and did not think enough of herself, but I suppose that is the point of the book. We all make mistakes, some big, some little, and whether you think her mistakes are big or little doesn't really matter. I didn't really feel like I connected with any of the characters, but yet this was a very good read. I didn't like any of the characters, and yet I felt sorry for all of them in their own way. I surprisingly found the main focus of this book to be how people are accepting of other people's flaws and mistakes. This was my take-a-way. Thank you, Raven Leilani.I'm not sure if I will forget this book soon, or if it will continue to resonate with me for a while. We'll see. Thank you to Edelweiss, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Macmillan and to Raven Leilani, the author, for the digital advanced copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Erin (roostercalls)
    January 1, 1970
    “I have come to the part of the night where I am incapable of any uppercase emotion, & every circuit responsible for my cellular regeneration has begun to smoke.”•Edie {SBF, 23, underemployed artist} & Eric (MWM, 46, having a mid-life crisis) have sex for the first time on the first page of LUSTER, before they’ve even met. He’s got an open marriage, so if they follow certain rules, It’s Okay. But author Raven Leilani starts placing explosives around that foundation immediately, & has soon blast “I have come to the part of the night where I am incapable of any uppercase emotion, & every circuit responsible for my cellular regeneration has begun to smoke.”•Edie {SBF, 23, underemployed artist} & Eric (MWM, 46, having a mid-life crisis) have sex for the first time on the first page of LUSTER, before they’ve even met. He’s got an open marriage, so if they follow certain rules, It’s Okay. But author Raven Leilani starts placing explosives around that foundation immediately, & has soon blasted it all to hell. What follows is a heady cacophony of racial & sexual politics, a burrowing into a life driven by trauma & neuroses, with few of the guardrails that most of us take for granted.•If my lizard brain wrote reviews this would just be one long wail: THE GODDAMN PROOOOOOSE!!!! Is Raven Leilani even using the same raw material as the rest of us?! Seems impossible. Her sentences are transcendent. Stiletto blades in rococo scabbards. The fluffiest Persian house cat that hasn’t been de-clawed. I spent the entire first chapter screaming perfect lines at friends over text & the entire book grinding them between my molars, savoring their substance. Nothing I can say about this book will be as persuasive as Leilani’s mastery of language is.•Yet we’ve all had the experience of reading a novel penned by a precocious writer, the lovely sentences of which didn’t drape together into a cohesive garment. Not so here. While this is literary fiction at its MOST litfic’y—obsessed with internality, more pathos than action, likely to lose anyone who reads books for plot only—it never drags or gets lost in its own navel. Two characters ride a roller coaster in the early going, which turns out to be a clever bit of foreshadowing because LUSTER drags the reader forward at a breakneck speed. Each carefully crafted, contemplative sentence is also a crucial accelerant.•This propulsion is even more of a marvel when you consider that we spend the majority of the book deep in Edie’s head, where the miasma of depression is paired with a shrugging inevitability toward micro-abuses, occasionally punctuated by dark humor. She accepts (at times even welcomes) a degree of debasement as the tradeoff for connection & visibility. This is the kind of distilled desperation that I would normally only want to view from the other side of the glass; but Leilani had me fully inside and invested, despite not always being fully comfortable.•Love to be proven wrong about things like this, but I can’t fathom picking up a more beautiful feast of language & humanity this year. Does Raven Leilani have a Genius grant yet?How about now?You know I‘ll never TELL you to go buy a book, bc I hate being told what to do & also that’s not the kind of energy I’m trying to put out there. But yo, if you’ve ever trusted my opinion on a book & had that trust validated by your own experience with it, then do yourself the favor of diving on top of the nearest copy of LUSTER that you can find!
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  • lark benobi
    January 1, 1970
    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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  • Tia
    January 1, 1970
    I’m clueless in trying to describe or talk about this book. It’s a story that will definitely make you ponder 🤔 The writing is lovely. The sentence structure is dynamic. The characters are complicated. Nothing is off limits in discussion. Edith and Rebecca are unforgettable. This was well done and I highly recommend for the experience alone. I don’t believe I’ve read anything like it. Again, this book has me at a loss of words.I received an ARC from Farrar, Straus and Giroux via Edelweiss
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  • Dustin
    January 1, 1970
    I saw that this was available via NetGalley, and immediately I became intrigued by the premise, which I suspected was about more than the physical. Meike's excellent review confirmed my suspicions. It did more than that, though. It blew them away and replaced them with something vastly larger, and unexpected. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I saw that this was available via NetGalley, and immediately I became intrigued by the premise, which I suspected was about more than the physical. Meike's excellent review confirmed my suspicions. It did more than that, though. It blew them away and replaced them with something vastly larger, and unexpected. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
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  • Casey the Reader
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to FSG Books for the free advance copy of this book. Edie is a young Black woman working in publishing in New York, barely making rent, sleeping with a series of the wrong people. She finds herself dating Eric, a married man from New Jersey in an open relationship. When Edie winds up unemployed and without housing, Eric's wife Rebecca invites her to live with them for awhile, despite not seeming to really be on board with the situation. Oh my god. How do I even talk about this book? I can Thanks to FSG Books for the free advance copy of this book. Edie is a young Black woman working in publishing in New York, barely making rent, sleeping with a series of the wrong people. She finds herself dating Eric, a married man from New Jersey in an open relationship. When Edie winds up unemployed and without housing, Eric's wife Rebecca invites her to live with them for awhile, despite not seeming to really be on board with the situation. Oh my god. How do I even talk about this book? I can't form my own sentences after reading Leilani's, which are each individual works of art that form a masterwork. I kept stopping reading to simply stare at the page when the paragraphs were too perfect. The text drags you down with Edie, with occasional sentences that run on for pages, pulling you both forward and underwater at the same time. Ugh, I haven't even gotten to the plot yet. It's not a highly plotted story, but I found myself whipping through the pages anyway. LUSTER covers everything from being a Black woman in a white-dominated field to the repercussions of growing up in an emotionally abusive home to simply trying to find yourself in a world that refuses to see you. I know this review is a confused mess. That's because I am in no way equipped to review and critique a novel of this magnitude. You need this book in your life, I promise. Content warnings: racism, sexism, self-harm, physical abuse, sexual assault, alcoholism, miscarriage, drug abuse.
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  • Rhiannon Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.When I read The Bell Jar as a young twenty-something I clung to it with such a fervor because I finally saw myself in the pages, even though it was written almost 50 years before. Over the years since, I’ve tried reading other novels that claim to capture the modern, young adult’s search for identity. I was widely disappointed, finding the characters to simply be moody and entitled. I believed I had simply aged ou I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.When I read The Bell Jar as a young twenty-something I clung to it with such a fervor because I finally saw myself in the pages, even though it was written almost 50 years before. Over the years since, I’ve tried reading other novels that claim to capture the modern, young adult’s search for identity. I was widely disappointed, finding the characters to simply be moody and entitled. I believed I had simply aged out of identifying with the younger generation. Then Luster came along and I alternately can’t stop talking about it and am tongue-tied because it’s Just. So. Good! THIS was the book I needed as a young woman!This debut novel is not “soft around the edges” so as to make it palatable and mainstream. It is raw, bold, and makes no apologies. I keep asking myself “How? How? How did she just do that?! How did Raven Leilani just pack all those huge themes into 227 pages and not a single sentence felt forced?! How? How? How?” I want to offer up a million quotes, turns of phrase, and sharp prose but I don’t want to take a single piece of the experience away from a reader.This is the best book I’ve read this year! Please please please, if you have ever sought my advice on what to read I beg you to preorder this novel! Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest
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  • Janelle Janson
    January 1, 1970
    Full review to come but LUSTER is excellent! Well done!
  • Ebony Rose
    January 1, 1970
    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.It will be hard to review this book...it is feverish, desperate, aching, morose, sharp, funny, hyper-realistic but also dreamlike...I don't know how to adequately capture the book's essence, but that's because it's unique and ineffable and bizarre. Raven Leilani is a stunning writer of immeasurable talent, and this book is unlike anything I have experienced be 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.It will be hard to review this book...it is feverish, desperate, aching, morose, sharp, funny, hyper-realistic but also dreamlike...I don't know how to adequately capture the book's essence, but that's because it's unique and ineffable and bizarre. Raven Leilani is a stunning writer of immeasurable talent, and this book is unlike anything I have experienced before. The writing is sublime. Every single sentence reads like a poem... raw and beautiful. An unbelievable debut.Thank you to NetGalley and Raven Leilani for approving my request for an advanced reader's copy of this magnificent book!
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  • Chris Gonzalez
    January 1, 1970
    Raven Leilani's novel is one of the most satisfying debuts I've read in recent years. Prose so exquisite I wanted to drink in each sentence, a NYC job market and that feels both comically exaggerated yet painfully, almost cruelly real, and characters who are allowed to be flawed and mean and angry and vulnerable. LUSTER is phenomenal.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Sharp and well written, this debut showcases a talented writer. Edie's story is a familiar one brought up to date with the mores of today. I have to say, however, that I'm not the right audience for this book and was unable to generate much sympathy for the character.
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  • R. Eric Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    This book is simply phenomenal. Poetic, searing, funny, and so deftly observed. I devoured it.
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