Luster – Raven Leilani

Published by: Picador
Pages: 240
Date released: 21/01/2021
Date read: 16/02/2021

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 head-first into Eric’s home and family.

Sadly, I was deeply disappointed by this book. It was hyped as “provocative”, “tender”, “painfully funny” – all I can say about that is it was majorly overhyped.

I admit, whilst I was reading it, I was thinking to myself that it was unlike anything I’d ever read before, in both form and topic, and it had the potential to be and exquisite piece of writing.

But I found it very cold and hard, and the main character very detached. Maybe, being a white woman in her late-20s, I struggle to identify with a black woman in her early-20s trying to fit in to a “white world”. Yet again, I’m not a goblin, but I can identify with fairy tales. So I don’t think that’s the issue.

I found most of the writing was written as metaphors that just don’t hit the right emotional note. I found myself not caring about their relationship or the goings-on around their relationship. There are random storylines that don’t mean anything to me or add anything to what I assume is meant to be the main storyline. And that’s where I get stuck. I can’t even say what the main storyline was meant to be. A young black woman finding her way in a very American white family? A young woman finding her place in the world? An exploration of an inter-generational, mixed-race romance?

This had so much promise and potential, but it just didn’t hit the mark for me unfortunately.

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