Image result for Luster by Raven Leilani

I feel like Luster is another installment in a series of books that I’m gonna call Dysfunctional Women Being Dysfunctional—which theoretically, I’m all for, but in actuality I’ve been disappointed by more often than not, this novel included. (Update: I ended up writing a whole post about Messy/Dysfunctional women in literary fiction.)

Luster is Leilani’s debut book, and there are definitely glimmers of sharp, wry writing to be found here. One of my favourites: “In the time we have been talking, my imagination has run wild. Based on his liberal use of the semicolon, I just assumed this date would go well.” (lol)

That being said, I can’t really say that I enjoyed this novel.

This is a novel that is immensely bogged down by its own moroseness. The main character, Edie, undergoes humiliation after humiliation with no break and nothing even close to resembling happy to temper that humiliation. I think the novel articulates its own spirit when Edie thinks,

“…the debris around the drain not enough to deter me from lying down in the tub and being dramatic, humiliation being such that it sometimes requires a private performance, which I give myself, and emerge from the shower in the next stage of hurt feelings.”

And that’s exactly it: reading this novel feels like reading a performance of humiliation (“performance” in the sense that it’s a presentation of humiliation, not in the sense that that humiliation is performative or “fake,” somehow). And the writing compounds this performance to the novel’s detriment. Leilani’s writing is simultaneously too verbose and too clipped, both over- and underwritten: at times she elaborates on moments that don’t need to be elaborated on, and at others she breezes through monumental emotional moments as if they were nothing. It felt like the novel was working at cross-purposes from what I wanted.

Of course, what all of this means is, this book was written in a style that wasn’t to my taste. And I think that there’s definitely people for whom this book’s style will work. If you liked Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Miranda Popkey’s Topics of Conversation, or Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times, you’ll like Luster. I will also point out the fact that Luster is an ownvoices novel told from the perspective of a Black woman, whereas all those books I just mentioned are from white women’s perspectives.

Thanks so much Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!


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    1. thank you!! i havent seen anyone rate this book less than a 4 stats lately so i very much felt like the odd one out lol. i really hope you snjoy it though! looking forward to ur review whenever u end up reading it ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m so tired of Dysfunctional Women Being Dysfunctional! I see the point in diversifying this genre beyond the typical privileged white protagonist, but I don’t think I’ll be seeking this one out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah me too, to be honest…they tend to be hit or miss for me, but more “miss” than “hit” these days. itll be interesting to see how this subgenre develops over the years, especially since it seems to be so popular right now 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! It’s really nice to see a critical opinion of this book among all the glowing 4- and 5-star reviews. I do still plan to read this, but I’m happy that I’ll now be going in with more well-balanced expectations!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. this subgenre of dysfunctional millennial women being dysfunctional – everyone seems to be loving it though so hopefully youll enjoy it as well, looking forward to seeing what u think!! ☺


  3. Ah, bummer, I’ve been looking forward to this one! I hope I get on with it a little better, though I appreciate seeing your balanced review before I pick it up, to counterbalance the hype. I think I’m not quite as tired of Dysfunctional Women yet, though it definitely has to be done a certain way to meet my expectations, and I can totally understand finding books like this exhausting if they don’t hit the mark. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you!! i feel like whether or not you like this book will depend on whether you tend to get along with Messy Woman books or not. a lot of people have been really loving this though so I feel like chances are youll enjoy it as well 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m reading this book and I’m kind of liking it. Its like a more literary version of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and in my opinion, its got a very nice slow pace which does a good job of getting the feeling of depression through.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve just picked this one up, and I’m rather enjoying the voice of Edie in the first chapter, especially that line you quoted! Now I’m more wary though about the ‘dysfunctional women being dysfunctional’ trope. Reading about dysfunctional women is both fascinating and frustrating for me, so we’ll see where this one might fall on that spectrum. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I’m gonna have to stay away from Messy Woman books for a while because I’m just so exhausted by them these days…I hope you enjoy it though!! I’ll look forward to seeing what you think 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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