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LUSTER, Raven Leilani “I think of how keenly I’ve been wrong. I think of all th…

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LUSTER, Raven Leilani

“I think of how keenly I’ve been wrong. I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men.”


Life is just happening to 23 year old Edie – job she’s not crazy about, run down apartment, clinging on to her true passion for art privately. When she enters an intense relationship with the White and married Eric, she soon finds herself living in his family home with his wife Rebecca and their Black 12 year old daughter, Akila.

I’m not alone when I say this book was nothing like I expected. Like many, I’m also not alone when I say my feelings are mixed, even several days after finishing it.

“Luster” manages to cover a lot of ground here – racism, family dynamics, abortion, mental illness, to name a few that Leilani handles with care. Edie is complicated, messy and completely captivating. A young person trying to choose a semblance of stability over her real passion, who makes poor decisions that she at least has control over, she speaks to many of us who do the same.

The stand out for me was Edie’s relationship with Akila. It’s obvious from the beginning she cares for her, even when Akila is initially uninterested in Edie. I enjoyed watching Akila slowly let Edie in, and the moments between them felt particularly tender. I got so sad when Edie wondered who would take care of Akila’s hair in the future.

Leilani is a gifted writer. Her writing is strong, both brutally and uncomfortably honest and vulnerable. The stream of consciousness style is one relatively new to me, so I did find a lot of her sentences too long for my liking. I found myself having to go back and reread lines a lot. While I don’t think her prose in “Luster” is for me, I can see why so many others loved it.