I finished this book on Sunday, it is a quick read with only 227 pages and an interesting story to follow. Luster is different to other books that I would normally read, after seeing it posted all over bookstagram and reviewed highly on Goodreads and Amazon, Waterstones etc. I added Luster to my recent TBR post and I felt I should give it a go and see what the hype was about.
Luster is about a 23 year old black woman called Edie who is just trying to navigate life, without too many problems. Edie is struggling in her dead-end admin job at an all white office, sleeping with all the wrong men and is failing to succeed at the one thing she loves, painting. Edie meets a middle aged white man called Eric, he has a wife called Rebecca who agrees to some sort of open marriage. Edie becomes entangled in this strange affair and finds herself falling into his world and family. Eric and Rebecca have an adopted black daughter who is having difficulties coming to terms with racism and understanding who she is and what it is to be young and black in America at these times. This book explores racism, sexual politics, work place politics, marriage, affairs, loneliness and also how it feels to be different and not feel a part of the club you feel everyone else is in.
I honestly picked up this book as it was all over bookstagram and lists of books you should read, having finished the book I could see why it has received this attention. Luster is honest and is not afraid to be brutal and bold. Raven Leilani does not hold back and isn’t afraid to write things as they are. The writing is beautiful and I felt I was a part of Edie’s life, that Edie could be a real person not just a character I was reading about in a book. There were times when it was quite difficult to read because of the situations the characters put themselves in. I am empathetic as a person and really felt for the characters at times and the difficulties they were facing. Although Edie is not always likeable I still found myself routing for her and wanting better for her. Edie is flawed however, we all have flaws which makes her relatable. Trying to fill the void any way she can and pining after people who don’t treat her well. Ultimately Edie is alone and wants to be accepted and loved but doesn’t know how to do this so accepts any attention that she can get which in turn makes her feel more alone.
Rebecca is an interesting character throughout the story and I found the parts where she interacts with Edie sometimes quite difficult to read but it helped with progressing the story and gave the book a grittier feeling of sadness and loneliness. I was intrigued by the dynamic of her relationships but also her as an individual.
Imagine living a life so carefully that there are no signs you lived at allRebecca
Akila is the adopted daughter in the story. I thought her character was so important to bringing the story to life and also helping us understand the sort of people Rebecca, Edie and Eric are. How people interact with children can often tell us a lot about them as a person. The relationship between Edie and Akila, although difficult at times was sweet and showed a different side to Edie that made her more likeable and helped us understand who she is and maybe what she has been through. Edie is caring towards Akila and wants to be there for her in a way that maybe other people have failed her, mainly due to lack of understanding. I feel the relationship between Akila and Edie is the most caring and real in the book.
Eric is a very unlikeable person and I think Raven’s writing really showcases this character beautifully. Eric is selfish, detached, violent and difficult however he has both his wife and Edie who care about him for some reason or another. I feel like the portrayal of this character is clear, I feel as a reader we really understand what the author is trying to tell us about relationships and how people end up in unhappy or problematic relationships.
This book is very much about loneliness and showcases the difficulties that people face in life and relationships. No matter what the characters want people to think about them, they are all having struggles. whether its addiction, broken relationship, unrequited love or just being lost and stuck, not knowing how to be free. It is a powerful story that explores the harder parts of life, the sadness and loneliness that people experience.
I did enjoy the book. I did think it was written well and really important. I didn’t like the character of Eric at all which I guess made it difficult to read (which I think is the point) it was interesting and gave prevalent issues a voice. I would recommend this book just as it is a different perspective and a honest look at life. I felt like the book ended abruptly but that may just be me wanting to know more.
I’d give this book a 4/5 it tackles difficult topics in an accessible way and is an enjoyable read however I didn’t really like Rebecca or Eric which didn’t help with the reading but I feel the characters aren’t meant to be very likeable so were ultimately written well.
Have you read Luster, what did you think? & do you have any similar suggestions?