It may occur to the reader of Luster that the identify has a double meaning. “A tender glow” is the dictionary definition of luster, and for the reason that the protagonist, Edie, is an artist, that reference makes sense. But if we're to read the identify as “lust-er,” as in one who lusts, that interpretation makes sense, too. Luster is a gritty novel about appetites—for sex, companionship, attention, money—and what occurs when they're sated.
Luster is narrated by way of Edie, a 23-year-vintage Black female in Brooklyn with a crappy activity and crappier apartment. She starts dating Eric, an older white guy she meets online who's in an open marriage. Then Edie is fired from her job for beside the point sexual behavior and sooner or later evicted from her apartment. Eric’s wife, Rebecca, invites Edie to live of their suburban New Jersey home until she gets back on her feet.
Despite the open dating that added Eric and Edie together, this is not a particularly sexual novel. The starting is front-loaded with intimate scenes, including some violence which can or might not be consensual BDSM. But the remainder of the e book focuses on the wary courting between Edie and Rebecca, as well as Rebecca’s followed Black daughter, Akila. It would possibly come as a remedy to Edie that this glad suburban circle of relatives whose domestic she has stumbled into is, actually, anything however happy. Or it'd simply be a disappointment.
Some readers will view Edie as an unlikable narrator who makes adverse choices. Others will examine her as lost and complicated, suffering to live afloat in a racist and sexist world. Either way, Edie is deftly written as a young girl saddled with generational trauma and tormented by the rootlessness of an addict’s child.
Leilani’s writing is cerebral and raw, and this debut novel will set up her as a powerful new voice. There are no smooth answers or resolutions in Luster, and no one comes out looking good. But the author has verified herself to be a keen social observer—specifically about the truths that a few people don’t want to see.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Raven Leilani discusses the need and rage of her woman characters in Luster.