Sunday, January 23, 2022

Luster by Raven Leilani


LUSTER is a fascinating novel and even though I didn't love it, I really liked it for what it was trying to do. Not only is it a commentary on Blackness, it is also a scathing criticism of the economy that millennials have inherited. I also interpreted it as saying that nostalgia culture is a way for millennials to return to thoughts of happier, safer times, and even that attraction to older men is more of an attraction to an aspirational lifestyle: having a family, owning a house and multiple cars, and having a career that gives you a 401k and a steady paycheck.

The summary makes you think that this book is going to be smutty, but it really isn't. There are sex scenes but most of the book is told in stream of consciousness format as she navigates her relationship with Eric, a married man who is in an open marriage. Eventually she meets his wife, Rebecca, and their adopted daughter, a Black girl named Akila. Shortly after this, she's invited to move in with them and sort of becomes a third wheel in their marriage, not quite a daughter, not quite a spouse, but something in between.

I feel like this book is trying to be Don DeLillo for a younger audience and it sort of succeeded, but at times the stream of consciousness format became too much and sometimes felt irrelevant. I also wish there had been more scenes focusing on the relationships between the characters. Not smut but scenes like when Eric takes Edie to an amusement park and it ends up being really uncomfortable and kind of infantilizing but she just goes along with it. I felt like that was quite telling of how they saw each other. I also would have liked more scenes depicting the nuances of interaction between Edie and Rebecca.

This was an incredibly good debut but it wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be, judged on its own merits. I would, however, read more by this author.

3 out of 5 stars

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