This year, half the people I know became ravenous readers and the other half lost the ability to make it to the end of a paragraph. Both extremes seem to me like reasonable responses to a global pandemic, and if your loved ones are in the second category, they’d probably prefer a nice bottle of orange wine or a pair of cashmere wide-leg pants. But if you’re shopping for someone who can’t stop reading books, even books set in the very recent Before Times — even books that feel blisteringly real and therefore the opposite of escapist — then may I recommend Luster, by Raven Leilani?
The novel follows the misadventures of Edie, a 20-something Black woman living in New York and working in publishing. She starts dating, and eventually moves in with, a 40-something white guy who lives in the suburbs with his furiously dissatisfied wife and, to Edie’s immense surprise, an adopted Black daughter. I’m certainly not the first person to think “Hey, this reminds me of Fleabag,” but it really reminded me of Fleabag — the awkwardness, the horniness, the fact that it’s all very funny and sad at the same time, the laser accuracy with which Leilani depicts the emotions of everyone involved.
It’s probably too late to ship, but you could easily get it beamed to the Kindle of your favorite book lover as late as Christmas morning. (Still not sure? Read an excerpt here to see what you think.)