Let's just say, I need a lengthy therapy session after listening to this audiobook....
The writing in Luster by Raven Leilani is lush and descriptive. It is disturbingly detailed and full of texture. Even an action as simple as filling a glass with water is able to transform into its own being under Leilani's words. I do not know how else to describe Luster other than this book is uncomfortable. It will make you feel emotions you did not know existed. It comes alive in such a way, that I swear I could smell, taste, and touch every word. This is not a "feel good" novel, but this book will make you feel.
I listened to the audio of Luster and at roughly six hours, it packs a quick punch. Edie is a young Black woman, struggling artist, trying to figure out who she is and where her place is in the world. She starts a sexual relationship with Eric, an older man who is married with an adopted daughter. Luster is a satirical take on taboo topics, such as open marriages, sadistic sex and pleasure, racial microaggressions, and cadaver art. Sound weird? It is. But Luster is one of those weirdly enthralling books with dark humor that fully encompasses how messy young adulthood can be. Edie is poor and struggling to find herself in a dead end job and dead end relationship. She is looking for herself in all of these unfulfilling facets of her life and she ultimately wants to be someone. Something. Somebody.
What I liked about Luster is that the novel opens with Edie's relationship with Eric, a married man. This relationship is brought to the reader's attention almost immediately, but it is not the relationship that this book develops. Edie eventually meets Eric's wife and daughter, Akila. The relationship between Edie and Eric's wife is complex and nuanced. She also forms a somewhat "role model" relationship with Akila, who is Black and adopted. I loved how Leilani has the reader focusing on Edie and Eric's relationship, when that is not the point of the book.
Luster left me feeling uncomfortable and I found it thought provoking, but one that leaves you feeling unsettled. I honestly don't know how I feel about this book and whether I liked it or not, but I think that is the entire point of it.
I would love to discuss this book for those who have read it. I highly recommend the audio as the narrator was perfect for the tone of the book. To be honest, I don't think I could have gotten through this book if I had read a physical copy.
Content warning: physical abuse, police brutality, racism, miscarriage, abortion