Author: Raven Leilani
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young, black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling headfirst into Eric’s home and family.
Luster is a beautifully written, raw and impactful read about Edie, a vivacious and bright woman in her twenties who is living in New York. She begins to date Eric, a middle-aged white man who is married but in an open relationship. What follows is a messy, challenging and often uncomfortable read about navigating relationships and life in general as a young black woman.
I have to say I found Edie a tricky character to warm to – she is by her nature quite stand-offish and reserved in some ways, and I wanted to shout at her that becoming so entangled with Eric and his family was not a good move! There were definitely parts that I didn’t like and it’s hard to convey why, but I think some of the novel I just found quite hard to read.
However, I found myself racing through this novel- it’s fairly short but regardless of the length, I still finished it in record time. The writing is not only beautiful but very readable (although some of the novel feels quite abstract, so I had to read some parts twice to make sure I’d read it correctly).
If you connect with Edie – or even if you don’t, as I didn’t hugely – this is a novel that’s easy to get completely sucked into.
Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.