Narrator: Ariel Blake
No one wants what no one wants.
And how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?
Edie 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 is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. 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 invited into Eric’s home—though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.
Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life—her hunger, her anger—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.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published: August 4th 2020
Police Brutality, Gun Violence, Abuse, Abortion, Miscarriage, Drug Addiction, Suicide Mention, Parental Neglect
The narration in and of itself did its job? It wasn’t bad at all, there was just a bit of flatness for me in the 6+ hours I spent listening? I needed a bit more conviction in her voice, for this is such a dramatic story… I just needed more drama in the tone of voice I was hearing.
“There are times I interact with kids and recall my abortion fondly, moments like this when I cross paths with a child who is clearly a drag.”
There’s a lot of buzz about this book all over my timeline and yes, I’ll admit this was an impulse buy if you’ve ever seen one. And I can firmly say this was an experience, not only in the sense that I do not read books in this lane, but I also don’t read about characters as messy as Edie… and like them. Because her and the events in this book… were a mess. The amount of times at work (because yes, I listened to this at work) I yelled what the fuck is embarrassing, yet here we are.
With the portrayal of a young Black woman in her twenties just surviving, we’re given a forward view into a woman who hasn’t been dealt the best of cards in life. She’s not a good person, though if I’m fair, none of the cast is except for the child. Edie a bit careless, selfish with a dark sense of humor that admittedly made me laugh horribly. You follow her and you dislike her and you enjoy her and you’re intrigued with her. As a main character, she definitely kept me engaged in the way you look at a car crash.
“I think of how keenly I’ve been wrong. I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men.”
However, following a Black main character, I appreciated the author trying to put a spotlight on Black issues and what Black women deal with in society… but it didn’t feel fleshed out. There was no elaboration, no delving into how this effects our main character– which would be fine! Not everything gets an explanation in reality, yet with the lack of plot and the monotony that the middle chunk of the book became… for a coming of age story, I don’t just want a checklist of social matters– I don’t need police brutality, interracial relationship struggle, abortions, etc. just thrown at me. I wanted nuance.
And with the mention of plot deficiency, side characters were also lacking in development. Which, you can tell because I have yet to name anyone other than Edie… I forgot their names. Nonetheless, I could possibly see the narrative choice parallel Edie’s apathetic, egocentric view on life. However, we do spend a great amount of time in the married couples presence, they’re all cohabiting each others space, shaping and molding one another’s lives. Edie isn’t the only one effected by this ordeal and I think the story would have kept me as engaged as the beginning if there was that expansion on all of the cast’ inner workings.
“It’s not that I want exactly this, to have a husband or home security system that, for the length of our marriage, never goes off. 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.””
Now, the ending probably won’t be everyones favorite, but it actually touched me. It gave me the message of… life goes on. It’s not exactly a happy one, but it’s very much so reminiscent of realism: sometimes you pass through someones life just long enough to get a glimpse… and you don’t always get a follow up or a how are they now segment. It’s blunt, yet, maybe you’ll be sitting somewhere and think back to it and wonder how they fared.
As for the book in its entirety? I don’t think you’re meant to make sense of this story. It’s a messy, what the fuck kind of book that you’re just kind of there for and honestly?? I found it quite enjoyable.