Raven Leilani has exploded into the scene like the chestburster in Alien. Fully-formed, unapologetic, covered in blood, and completely in control while annihilating the guts of a mediocre man. Luster has been racking up well-deserved accolades, and I truly cannot wait to see what she does next- although I am relieved that this is her debut, and there isn’t a back catalog waiting to destroy me hiding just out of view. Not only is her work fantastic, but it also allows me to knock two “bingos” (Money, No Money, Repeat, I Wish, Violet AND Uncannon, Nostalgia, Yellow, Happy, and Repeat) off of my list. Luster is a “Repeat” in more than one category for me, so if you are in need of Uncannon, Debut, or Red you should jump Luster to the top of your TBR.
I am inclined to pray, but on principle, I don’t. God is not for women. He is for the fruit. He makes you want and he makes you wicked, and while you sleep, he plants a seed in your womb that will be born to die.
Edie, voiced in the excellent audio edition with care and vivacity by Ariel Blake, is a 23 year old black woman trying to stay afloat in New York City. She’s spending her days wasting away in a low-tier publishing job, where she has meaningless and often degrading sex with coworkers just to pass the time. She wants badly to work in the illustration department, but she is stuck painting on her own in her roach-ridden six-floor walk-up. She’s plagued by insecurity, poverty, IBS, and the everyday danger of trying to live while Black. She is utterly alone in her misery, until an older married man slides into her DMs.
Based on his liberal use of the semicolon, I just assumed this date would go well.
He’s everything she isn’t; secure, successful, and white. He is in an open marriage, but neither Edie nor this man truly know how open that relationship really is, and she falls deeper and deeper into his seemingly picket-fence family out in the ‘burbs of Jersey.
I feel bad that my first instinct is to manage his feelings, instead of suggesting somewhere else to go. That we will both have to endure my attempt to prove over the course of this date that I am Having a Good Time! and that This Is Not Your Fault!
I do not want to tell you too much about this story, as every small reveal, realization, and inescapable humiliation experienced by Edie made me literally gasp. On more than one occasion I bellowed “oh NO”, drawing the immediate attention and confusion of my husband. I can tell you that Leilani lives so firmly in the soul of Edie that it is nearly impossible to remember that this is fiction. She is hilarious, horney, and heartbreaking. She makes terrible decisions. The world kicks her around. She is triumphant and terrified, and will make you cry laughing while you also shake with rage.