LUSTER by Raven Leilani

Luster is a novel about a young woman who is still trying to figure herself out. She’s 23, both of her parents are deceased, and her paintings aren’t quite right. There’s a lot of spiral-y sex stuff going on too. She sleeps around at work until she gets fired, and she’s also dating a married man from Maplewood, NJ whose wife takes her into their home when she gets evicted from her Brooklyn apartment.

So the plot is a lil unexpected in that sense–most of the book takes place with her living with them and their newly adopted black daughter. It’s also weird cuz they’re white and recently adopted a black daughter who is 13, and now the guy is in the throws of an awkward relationship with a 23 year old black woman. He is dirty seeming, but the wife is cool-ish.

Anyway, Edie becomes another kind of adoptee in their home, where everyone is a little closed off and distanced, as people are in most suburban houses. The relationship she manages to build with the actually adopted daughter, however, is sweet and worthwhile and pure. And the writing itself is great throughout the book. The self-consciousness and degradation and unhappiness is very real.

Best line: “This was the contradiction that would define me for years, my attempt to secure undiluted solitude and my swift betrayal of this effort once in the spotlight of an interested man.”

-Rachel Wagner

My books: Jacob’s Hip: Poems & FEM: New Millennium Beauty & Fashion & Abandonment Issues: Alive in New Jersey & Back Like I Never Left: Dating as a Single Mother

My bookstore: Ten Dollar Books

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