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Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize awarded to 'Luster'

Cover of Luster
A review of Luster by Raven Leilani

Raven Leilani's Luster wins The Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize for best debut novel.

A young woman named Edie half-heartedly works in an administrative capacity at a New York publishing house while dreaming of a career in art. She bounces between harmful, casual sexual encounters at work in such a disastrous way that her career is compromised. That it affects her job and not the job of her male sexual partners is unjust and disturbing. 

Edie's apartment in Bushwick is in worse shape than her career and she ends up moving in with a digital archivist and autopsist couple from New Jersey. The couple claims their marriage is an open one and Edie finds herself caught between what the couple says, what they do, and what they really want. If Edie knew what she truly wanted, her life might move in a different direction but she's still figuring that out. Edie bonds with the couple's daughter and I found myself rooting for their relationship more than any other in the novel.

Luster explores race, millennials in the work force, modern dating, and power imbalances in relationships. The writing is clear and crisp. It's haunting and beautiful. It's sad and hopeless. It makes me squirm more than any other novel I've read this year. I'll definitely be watching the author's career as it continues to grow.

Dec 4, 2020