An American Marriage

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

I finished An American Marriage a few weeks ago and still find myself thinking about it. A timely, moving book that I would happily thrust into the hands of anyone.
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This story was sobering. I felt wrecked entering into a fictional story that you know represents a version of a brutal and unjust reality for too many black neighbors in our country. It's a must-read, and prompts a desire for radical change. Jones crafted an engrossing story that is impossible to forget.
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An Oprah Book Club pick. I didn't love it. I had some trouble really caring about some of the characters. It lacks some character development.
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Told through first-person narratives by Roy, Celestial, and Andre, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones stretches readers’ ideas of love, betrayal, truth, and heartbreak. Jones captured my attention immediately beginning with Roy’s narration. The first line is “there are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t. I am a proud member of the first category.”
We quickly learn that Roy has grown up in the small Louisiana town of Eloe. Roy tells us “home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch.” Having grown up in a small Arkansas town only ten miles north of Louisiana, I identify with Roy’s philosophy of leaving home and launching. Roy goes on to say, “I’m not talking bad about Eloe. For one, Eloe may be in Louisiana, not a state brimming with opportunity, but it is located in America, and if you’re going to be black and struggling, the United States is probably the best place to do it.” 
Roy explains that he has been lucky; his parents are hardworking and have provided him with a home, clothing, food, and education. He describes his advantages this way: “I had my own bathroom. When I outgrew my shoes, I never waited for new ones. While I have received financial aid, my parents did their part to send me to college.”
Roy describes meeting Celestial when they were both college students. Andre, another of the narrators, in fact, introduces Celestial and Roy. However, the two do not cross paths again until they have both graduated from college and are in NYC. Celestial is in graduate school seeking an art degree; Roy is in NYC on a business trip. Often such meetings feel contrived; this one though is natural. Roy and his fellow business associates happen into a restaurant where Celestial is working as a waitress while she goes to graduate school. 
Roy pursues Celestial and persuades her to marry him. They marry and live in Atlanta in the home where Celestial grew up. Her parents have moved to a much larger home. Interestingly enough, Celestial’s father deeds the house to Celestial alone, despite the fact that his daughter is married to Roy. Celestial tells Roy it doesn’t matter because the house is theirs together, not hers alone.
Roy’s job is going well. He encourages Celestial to quit her job and follow her dream of making fancy dolls to sell as art objects: poupées. Roy suggests the name. The two have a lovely home, a loving relationship, and a bright future. What could go wrong?
Readers quickly find that much can go wrong. As much as Roy and Celestial love one another, they also argue and disagree about a number of things. Celestial is mistrustful of Roy. Is her mistrust unfounded? Then Roy is accused of the unthinkable, of raping a stranger, a woman in the same motel where Roy and Celestial are staying when they go to Eloe to visit Roy’s parents.
Andre, the boy next door, also tells his version of the story. He and Celestial have known each other their whole lives; they are like brother and sister. Or are they? 
Jones pulls readers into the story by telling it through three characters’ eyes, but also including details from Roy’s early life and his parents as well as Celestial’s early life and her parents. Roy and Celestial come from entirely different backgrounds. Roy has never wanted for anything, but he has not enjoyed the luxury that Celestial’s parents have given her. Andre, too, is like Celestial, a man of privilege.
I could pull many, many lines from the story. The three below give readers an idea of the beauty of the language that Jones conveys: 
"My father has this alpha-omega way about him, like he was here before you showed up and he would be sitting in the same recliner after you left."
"Olive brought me into this world and trained me up to be the man I recognized as myself. But Celestial was the portal to the rest of my life, the shiny door to the next level."
"But that night in the Piney Woods, I believed that our marriage was a fine-spun tapestry, fragile but fixable. We tore it often and mended it, always with a silken thread, lovely but sure to give way."
Tayari Jones has published three previous novels: Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, and Silver Sparrow. She has also written for Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. Jones has received praise from a number of sources including Oprah Winfrey who chose An American Marriage as an Oprah Book Club selection in 2018. 
Barack Obama wrote of An American Marriage that “one of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon . . . An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.” Other reviewers use words like haunting, beautifully written, compelling, and tense.

Learn more about Tayari Jones and her work, visit her Web site: http://www.tayarijones.com/.
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Wow! This book is so engaging and well-written. The characters felt so realistic and were so easy to care about. I can't imagine anyone not liking this book.
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This novel is incredibly beautiful and incredibly heartbreaking, and I absolutely loved it. I will never stop recommending this book.
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Not a fan... It may be a good fit for other readers but it just did not capture and hold my interest.
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This is a quick read that brings you right into the character's minds through three different character's perspectives. The internal monologues are also broken up by correspondence between the characters which is a stand in for dialogue once one of the characters is wrongfully imprisoned for rape. I had to suspend disbelief a little bit for this book because I know that such a small number of people accused of rape and sexual abuse are tried, let along convicted and serve an appropriate amount of time for their crimes. So the fact that someone was actually convicted while we knew him to be innocent seemed like a stretch. But I also know black men are unfairly and disproportionately stopped, arrested and convicted, and given longer sentences, etc. I actually wished there was a little bit more about the prison industrial complex. But, given the fact that the character in question was an educated professional, I supposed his case doesn't fit the school to prison pipeline narrative. Nonetheless it was interesting to read about how this tragic turn of events affected the lives of the incarcerated man, his wife, and her best friend turned lover. You're rooting for the marriage throughout, though the end isn't quite as satisfying as you want, Nor is it very challenging or unexpected. I think the end could have been more impactful.
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Unparalleled narration of a tragically underrepresented story. Every word captures your heart and are left wanting more by the time you turn the last page.
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4.1 - complicated and compelling; I found myself engaged with the three main characters and was rooting for everything to work out for the best in the end
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Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for the free review copy. 

I wanted to love this book because so many others do, but it didn’t happen. I found itself feeling apathetic toward Roy and Andre, and it was too easy to set this one aside for other reads. Maybe the wrong book at the wrong time, I’m not sure. Regardless, I still intend to read more by this author.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a contemporary marriage in the American south. 

Celestial and Roy are married for a year when suddenly their world is torn apart. Neither could have imagined Roy being sentenced to prison for 12 years for a crime he didn't commit. Five years later, just as Celestial has begun to move on with her life, Roy is suddenly exonerated.
Can they save their marriage at that point or has it been damaged beyond repair?

I didn't like any of the main characters. Perhaps the author wanted it that way so that the reader can't side with one character over another.

An American Marriage is a well-written, thought provoking novel about complicated human relationships. 

I look forward to reading more of Tayari Jones work.

Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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The printed version was good, but I started it in audiobook form which left alot to be desired. I lost interest and had to pick it up several times. Worth reading, but wished for a better voice, as I read most books in the long car rides, and this one didn't work for me.
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The depth of a marriage is a personal and tricky thing and difficult to write about successfully.  This story was real and raw.  The characters are well thought out and developed.  The tragedies that befall us can change the course of life as we know it and that is what happens in this book.  This is one that stays with you.
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I think I caught this at a bad time for myself, but it’s very compelling. The haunting perfection of the exchange “I’m innocent”/“I’m innocent too” has a lot of staying power. The ending was perfect.
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This book was difficult to read - it is so difficult to read about false imprisonment and what happens to the friends and family of the person.  Jones made these characters ones the reader will care about.  The characters are real - lovable and with faults.
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This book unfortunately was too hyped up for me; it would never live up to the praise, which is unfortunate, since it is a very, very good book. The characters are so deeply human. They feel so alive; their thoughts and feelings jump off the page and infect the reader. I did feel the book needed a bit more editing to tighten it up, but ultimately, it is a promising debut.
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This book has a rocky start. Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, this is about a young, upwardly mobile married couple in Atlanta faced with unforeseen circumstances that threaten to rip their marriage apart. As seen in the book’s synopsis, the husband — Roy — is wrongfully arrested and sentenced for twelve years. Celestial, his wife, is left alone to work at her business and visit hubby when possible. 

I didn’t much care for these characters, especially Roy. At least not at first. For the first 150 pages or so, this novel seems to be a portrait of the toxicity of masculinity. Celestial’s life is ripped to and fro by the men around her, and I just wanted to shake her shoulders and scream “Wake up!” Ugh. 

Things did pick up in the latter half, and the writing got less choppy. There were fewer exposition dumps and the characters became more sympathetic. My internal rating slowly rose to what it is now: four stars. The author stuck the landing; she didn’t go for what was easy, but what was appropriate for the story. I respect that. 

I am glad I read this, but I doubt I’ll revisit it. At times too flimsy, at other times downright frustrating, this is an uneven story with a killer second act.
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I found this to be an easy and engaging read. Celest and Roy were both likeable characters and I felt myself relating to Celest especially and feeling her pain as her life changed so dramatically after her husband was incarcerated. I would recommend this book!
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I have recommended this book to everyone I know. Marriage, the American Criminal Justice system, fate, friendship - it has it all in a compelling page turner. The last 50 pages or so may make you neglect your own family so you can finish.
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