Cover Image: An American Marriage

An American Marriage

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This book took me a little while to get into. The beginning was a little slow but once about half way through I was invested in the characters and wanted to know how it would turn out.
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Excellent read and very thoughtful examination of a topic that needs as much coverage as it can get in this country. I commend Tayari Jones looking straight at the impact of a justice system in the context of the relationship that is impacted by it directly and profoundly. Essential reading.
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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is one of those stories where I didn't like any of the characters, but I easily and quickly read through the book. Jones' writing is engaging enough that I was able to get annoyed when the characters just refused to take responsibility for their own actions causing the problems and complications in their lives. I started out having plenty of empathy for the situation that Celestial and Roy found themselves in, but my good will quickly ran out. 

Celestial being willing to stay with Roy in order to support him in a situation that is terrifying for both of them, made me want to see her as what she thinks that she is; a strong woman who knows in her heart what is right. But dang if Celestial starts falling off that pedestal almost immediately. And Roy. Heaven help me I wanted to be behind him as well, but his decisions didn't exactly make me think of him as a solid man. 

The first part of An American Marriage hooked me in and made me want to keep reading, however the second half is where things went wrong for me as a reader. Celestial and Roy became so ridiculous in their actions that it was more like soap opera characters than people dealing with the fall out from their serious difficulties. Although, the writing is good, I just didn't have much empathy for Celestial and Roy. 

Because I do enjoy the way that Tayari Jones writes, I will read another of her books in the hopes that I will enjoy the characters more.
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Celestial and Roy are one of those couples that epitomizes the New South, an artist and an aspiring businessman, graduates of Spelman and Morehouse. Then, on a trip to Louisiana to visit his parents, Roy is accused of a rape he doesn't commit and sentenced to twelve years in jail. Mostly told through letters, this is the story of the tests to their marriage as their time apart exceeds their time together and its contrasted with their parents' relationships and the new relationships they build as their individual lives move in different directions. Poignant.
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I must admit that I am underwhelmed by this book. After all the hype and other reviews, I was expecting more. I feel like I must have missed or overlooked something. I didn't much care about the characters and the story was depressing. However, I did like the author's writing style and would be willing to give her another try. This one just wasn't for me.
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Part of review from Goodreads: "I enjoyed this book. Walking away from it I take the knowledge that empathy and understanding is what we should have for incarcerated individuals. You don't know the full story, so don't judge."
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Told from three connected points of view, the characters were developed very well.  I empathized with all three of them.  I loved this book!
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This book had me hooked on the very first page. "There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don't."- Great first sentence.

"Home" is an interesting theme throughout this book. Roy and Celestial are newly married and at the precipice of living the American dream. After only a year of marriage, Roy is accused of a crime that his wife knows for a fact that he did not commit. But after he is arrested and sentenced to spend time in prison (this isn't a spoiler, the book jacket sets the scene right away). He's ripped away from the home they thought they were going to build together. 

This couple started out with a once-in-a-lifetime love, one that they thought would stand the test of time and anything life might throw in their path. But maybe they were just being naive. I was equal parts happy and sad throughout this entire book. My heart was torn in two for this couple. 

What I love most about the book is the courageous hearts of Roy and Celestial. African American roots have made their sense of family and pride strong. Celestial is strong, independent and determine have the life she always wanted. 

But what she wanted was a successful career and lifetime of happiness with her husband by her side. And that's not what she got. What she got was 12 years of uncertainty and a broken heart, because the man she loved has been accused of an unthinkable crime. Does she stay by his side? Is she strong enough to live without him but still keep their marriage intact? How can a woman who has built her own success from the ground up, who has always been independent and head strong, have so much need for a man? And for Roy, how can a man accused and shamed for something he says he did not do, keep his pride?

Can Celestial stay married to a man behind bars? Is he the same man she married? Is it fair to ask her to wait for him? Is a marriage based on love or circumstance? All of the questions are beautifully answered in this unforgettable story. 

There are twists in this book; secrets that the characters are keeping from the reader that come as a shock and make you doubt if you even like them anymore. But in the end, you will love them and you'll never forget this story.
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This is an amazing book -- it deserves every ounce of praise and recognition it's gotten! I loved it!
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I really enjoyed Tayari Jones' previous novel Silver Sparrow so I've been eagerly awaiting the release of this book. It was so worth the wait. This is a fantastic novel and I could not put it down. I love how Jones uses a compelling story to explore themes of mass incarceration and what it is like to be black in the American South. I also loved how marriage was explored in this novel. This is one of those novels that would be perfect for discussing with other readers ... there is just so much in this novel that needs to be discussed with others. I've also heard a few people talk about how this would pair well with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness which I definitely sound right based on what I've heard/read about that one. 

This book was so well written. The characters were fantastic - well drawn, multi-faceted, and complex. They make this really beautiful and raw story come alive on the page. The exploration of relationships can be difficult to do well but Tayari Jones really excels. This book kept me riveted. I think it may be one of the best books about marriage that I've read in some time. It really gave me a great deal to think about as a wife, a daughter and a person in the world. It's a really thoughtful and interesting novel that I highly recommend!
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An American Marriage is an intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and is my favorite novel of 2018 so far!

Plot Summary:
When Roy goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit only a year and a half into their new marriage, Celestial must figure out how to cope with his absence and shape her life in the face of this massive upheaval.

Why I Read It:
This year, I’m trying to select books that come highly recommended by people whose recommendations I trust and that have already read the book (rather than are just excited to read it). An American Marriage came with a 5 star review from Nicole Bonia of The Readerly Report Podcast. Since then, it’s been chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick and a Book of the Month February selection.

Major Themes:
Marriage (obviously), race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery

What I Liked:
- You see how many major themes An American Marriage tackles? You’d think the story would feel cluttered with all that, but it doesn’t. It’s about so many things, but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). And, Jones handles them in a completely organic way that doesn’t make the book feel overwhelmingly like “an issue book.”
- I loved the writing. It’s not “gorgeous” in the traditional sense, rather it’s casual, intimate, and has personality. I felt like I was hanging out in the backyard with each character (the story is told through multiple perspectives) as he/she told me his/her side of a crazy story.

"I hate using that word, career. It always feels like the word bitch is hiding out between the letters."

- Roy and Celestial’s story digs deeper into race to the class divisions within the African American community. Roy comes from poverty and is driven to improve his station in the world, while Celestial comes from an upper class family. The ripple effects of these different mentalities has a large impact on their marriage.
- The last quarter of the book is absolutely riveting. You want action? You’ll get it here.
- With all the issues addressed in An American Marriage, it’s not surprising that it would make a great book club selection. There’s a ton to discuss here including a big “what would you do in their shoes?” question.

What I Didn’t Like:
- When I heard Nicole talk about this book on The Readerly Report Podcast, she advised to go in blind and I’m so glad I did. The publisher’s blurb gives away far too many plot details and I’d advise you to avoid it if you’re interested in reading this one! Sadly, I feel like I’ve had to list this item under “What I Didn’t Like” for far too many books over the past couple years…
- I’m not a fan of Epilogues in general and this one didn’t drive me crazy, but it didn’t add much to the story.

A Defining Quote:
"We were properly married for a year and a half, and we were happy for that time, at least I was. Maybe we didn’t do happy like other people, but we’re not your garden-variety bourgeois Atlanta Negroes where the husband goes to bed with his laptop under his pillow and the wife dreams about her blue-box jewelry. I was young, hungry, and on the come-up. Celestial was an artist, intense and gorgeous. We were like Love Jones, but grown. What can I say? I always had a weakness for shooting-star women."

Good for People Who Like…
Southern fiction, marriage, hard-hitting writing, books about “issues” that don’t feel like “issue books”

Other Books You May Like
Another book that tackles weighty issues, but isn’t overwhelmingly about any one of them:
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
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When you request book through Netgalley, they would like you to let them know if certain things caused you to request the book. I keep hearing about this book? Nope, hadn't heard a thing about this one when I asked it. Now, sure, Oprah's picked it for her book club but she hadn't when I requested this one. Cover? Sure, it's a lovely cover and perfect once you read the book but it's not attracted me to the book. Description? Didn't even read it and I'm really glad I hadn't before I started reading it. Author? Check. This is entirely the reason I requested this book. I've been hearing about Jones' Silver Sparrow since before it came out and knew she was an impressive writer. Why not start with her latest? Well, maybe because it's going to be hard for Silver Sparrow to measure up to this one when I finally get to it.

Is it enough of a review for me to simply tell you that you have to read this book? I need you to read this book so I can talk about it with you!

It's so good in so many ways, as an examination on marriage, as a commentary on our criminal justice system, and as a commentary on racial injustice. It sounds dark and heavy and it is. Jones doesn't pull any punches. But she also gives readers humor, sass, beautiful stories of family, and such lovely writing. Jones made me tear up, she made me smile, she made me hold my breath, and she made me so angry. In the end, she made me sad to leave these characters. I miss them.
"But home isn't where you land; home is where you launch. You can't inc your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land."
An American Marriage is not merely heartbreaking, it is devastating. But, in the end, Jones leaves readers with hope.
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I didn’t love this book as fully as others, including most critics, but I can’t deny that it was haunting. Using letters as the primary way to tell the story was effective in creating a distance between Roy and Celestial that filled up in my mind with everything unsaid and unknown.  I just felt some of the plot elements were a bit contrived, otherwise it would have gotten 5 stars from me.
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Roy and Celestial have been married for almost two years when their relationship takes a hit no one could ever anticipate. As they are in rural Louisiana visiting Roy's family, he is wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit. Sentenced to twelve years in a Louisiana prison, the time they have spent married will be much shorter than the time they are about to spend apart. Will they both be able to survive the predicament they are in? With Celestial in Atlanta trying to continue to live her life and Roy in Louisiana, writing letters back and forth and having sporadic visits, will their marriage survive?

Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. One of the best books I have read so far this year. This has also been selected as an Oprah Book Club Selection. 

Can you imagine what you would do if one night you and your husband were asleep in a hotel bed, enjoying some time away from home visiting family. When all of a sudden, your door is ripped open and you both are snatched out of bed. Your husband is being charged for a crime he couldn't have committed. An earlier act of kindness, now turned into something it is not. Then he is tried for the crime and convicted and has to spend twelve years behind bars. How will your marriage survive this? Are you going to pick up the life you have built in one state to move to another and be closer to him, even though you can only see him once a week? Will you continue to live your life and make that journey? Or will you leave him to his own devices in jail, there is nothing more you can do for him and the wait is just too much to bear? What would you do?

Celestial, has not had an easy life. On the outside, her life looks pretty incredible, with parents who had made something for themselves and live in a wealthy part of Atlanta. Roy, though he didn't come from much, had graduated from college and proven himself in the professional world. This is the type of couple you always would think, nothing like this could happen to them. But things like this happen every day. Hundreds of men and women are in prison now for crimes they did not commit. 

A heart breaking and compelling story about love, marriage, and life and how we all try our best to survive it one day at a time.
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This is a gorgeous, sweeping novel that follows the lives and marriage of Celestial and Roy in the South. A thoughtful novel about not only love and marriage, it takes a stand on racial and wealth/class injustice in America. The differences between the haves and have nots is nothing new, but the author seamlessly combines all the issues and weaves in the ends to craft this amazing story.  The main characters are so well written but there are other secondary characters that are just as vivid. This is an intense story that will linger in my mind for a long time.  I could not be happier that it has received the blessing of Oprah, now I know that millions will read this book. Thank you so much for allowing me to read and review An American Marriage.
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Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I felt let down by this book. Most of the main characters, I did not like, well Roy improved for most of the book, but no. And her friend Andre could never really be trusted. Yet you don't have to like the people who populate the book for it to be good. And there are some aspects in this book that's good to be out there, and talked about, and there's some subtly to it. The main issue in the book is a HUGE problem, incarceration of black men, especially falsely accused of rape. 

At one point Celestial says, like a secret let out "I'm a bad person." Well, am I a bad person for not liking this book? A major part of the book was told in letters, but not entirely. Maybe would've been stronger if it stayed in that form. Or even stronger without Andre's point of view. I'm glad this book is out there and hope for it to do well. Just wasn't a strong, great book for me.
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Celestial and Roy are a young married couple just starting out in life. She is starting out with a doll making business, more artsy than toyish. He has dreams of his own. A night back in his hometown leads to Roy becoming incarcerated. The story takes us through all of this in letters between the two of them. And there is also Andre in the equation. Dre is Celestial’s lifelong friend and the one who first introduced them.  As time passes in prison for Roy, Celestial’s life moves on and that includes a relationship with Andre.

There is an almost poetic tone to the writing in this novel. A few times, I had to stop and reread a few phrases, tossing them around on my tongue to really savor them. It is the complete circle of a love story and it’s done very well. It is also a timely topic about race. It is a very well written book and I am happy that I received a copy from Netgalley and Alqonquin Books.

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It occurred to me not long into reading "An American Marriage" that I don't read many books with African American protagonists. I don't read many African American authors either. I'm so glad Tayari Jones' newest novel found its way to me through Netgalley. 

"An American Marriage" is the story of a young black couple, barely two years married. It's the story of Roy, the husband, who comes from a poorer background but is making up for that with dreams and ambition. It's the story of his wife, Celestial, a talented artist who is swept along by Roy's dreams and who is given opportunities from the wealthy background of her parents.

It's a story of injustice. It's a story of our justice and penal systems. It's a story of whether a marriage can survive against all odds. 

During a trip home to visit Roy's parents, the young couple stay in a hotel where Roy goes to get ice after a dramatic fight. He meets an older woman, chats with her and walks her back to her room. 

Later that night, someone rapes that woman. It isn't Roy, but she accuses him of raping her and Roy is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

But this isn't a story about being on trial or in prison. It's about Roy and Celestial: how they met, how they ended up together, how they feel about their families, how they feel about each other and how all of this will affect their marriage.

Most of the early part of the story focuses on letters sent between Roy and Celestial. This method of storytelling acts as a montage of sorts, propelling us forward in time from the day of Roy's conviction to his release from prison after five years. 

Through these letters, we learn their passion for one another. But we also learn about the deep hurt they have caused one another. We see them initially come together in support of one another, but then see how time and distance pull them apart.

The rest of the story plays out in from different points of views: Roy's, Celestial's and Andre's - Celestial's childhood friend who also introduced her to Roy. 

Each of them, as well as their families, have been affected by Roy's prison sentence. All of their lives moved on without him. All of them grew and changed while he was away. He now has to figure out how he fits into their lives - if he even does.

"An American Marriage" is spellbinding and haunting. The themes of a struggling marriage and family drama are familiar to most readers. 

There may have been some cultural aspects of the book that I missed or didn't fully understand, but overall, "An American Marriage" is a wonderful, emotional, powerful and bittersweet story. 

Now that I've been lucky enough to discover Tayari Jones, I will be sure to read her other three novels, each of which sounds riveting. 

Roy, a young black man, is tried and wrongly convicted of rape while his wife, Celestial, waits for his return. But Jones’s story isn’t the one we are expecting, a courtroom drama or an examination of the prison-industrial complex; instead, it is a clear vision of the quiet devastation of a family. The novel focuses on the failed hopes of romantic love, disapproving in-laws, flawed families of origin, and the question of life with or without children that all married couples must negotiate. It is beautifully written, with many allusions to black music and culture — including the everyday poetry of the African-American community that begs to be heard.
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This was a dark, beautiful story. Dark due to the subject matter and beautiful due to the author's writing and the way she wrote about this great tragedy. While the story is fiction, the subject matter is not.

A happily married couple and their best friends' lives are changed forever due to the wrongful imprisonment of the husband. The story was told through three characters, their point of view, along with letters to and from the husband as a prisoner for five years. This story was written in such a way that you GET these characters. They became a part of me and while sad, very sad, I enjoyed the journey and the insight.

A wonderful read which I sped through and enjoyed very much.

Thanks to Algonquin Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018. I wasn’t sure what to expect but in the end it did not disappoint.

Celestial and Roy are a couple who are dealt a terrible hand. Having only been married a year and a half, Roy is literally torn from their bed and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. It is difficult enough to make a marriage work let alone when one of you is in jail – and wrongfully accused.

This was a tough read. There are a lot of subjects I’m ignorant on, and mass incarceration is one of them. In the book I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a rape kit, DNA testing, etc. How was Roy so easily committed for something he didn’t do? I still don’t know if that’s the norm, or if that’s just the norm if you’re black and accused. Either way it’s disgusting and disgraceful.

My heart broke right along with Roy’s and Celestials’ and this book had me crying less than 100 pages in. 

I loved Jones’ writing. It was truthful, and visceral, sharp tongued and didn’t sugar coat anything. I particularly loved reading the letters Roy wrote and received to and from Celestial, and the others in his life. It was a unique and truthful way to communicate to the reader what was going on. They weren’t able to talk face to face every day, and through letters things can get misinterpreted. I liked that that was included.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers on how it ends. I think it’s important not to know what happens, going into it. I will say the actions of Roy and Celestial are very believable. These are two imperfect humans trying to survive through what was dealt to them. I don’t think you can blame each of them for doing, acting, and saying what they did. 

Although this book has a lot of heartbreak in it, I do think this story is one, ultimately of hope.
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