Cover Image: An American Marriage

An American Marriage

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Member Reviews

An American Marriage is gut-wrenching, with artful and beautiful writing. I loved it and was impressed over and over again by Jones' creativity. On top of all this, the story of black men and mass incarceration is incredibly relevant. I can't recommend it highly enough!
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This was definitely an interesting story.  The events were really heartbreaking.
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Married just over a year, Roy, a young executive and Celestial, an artist are a black couple getting their rhythm as husband and wife.  One day Roy is arrested for a crime he didn't commit. He is tried, convicted and is sent to prison. While they await the appeal process, Roy makes the best of prison life in Louisiana while Celestial must try to adjust to life on the outside without Roy.  When Roy is a free man, 5 years later, he hopes to return to Celestial and resume their life together but, does time change what this young couple once had?

A well-written, timely novel about racial injustice and the how it affects a marriage.
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This is the first book I’m reading by Tayri Jones and after reading it I know it won’t be the last. 

An American Marriage is a story that could be anyones. A newlywed couple’s life gets upended when the husband is found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. A crime that sends him away for over a decade. The story asks how does a marriage survive that? Can it? Should it? Jones expertly navigates through the perspective of Celestial, a doll maker who is on the rise and her husband Roy a successful ex-playboy who has big plans to start a family and open a shop for his wife to sell her dolls in. When Roy is sent away to prison the two communicate through letters as time and distance slowly wears them down forcing them to face some ugly truths and causing Celestial to lean on her best friend Andre for comfort. I absolutely loved this story—It broke my heart, frustrated and angered me but most of all it made me wonder what I would do in their shoes. It made me question who was the victim here? There’s so many different topics to touch on within the story like incarceration, infidelity, honor, racial injustice and social economics it’s definitely going to be a book club favorite. 

Honest review of an ARC edition.
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"You can never really unlove somebody. Maybe it changes shape, but it's there."

We're less than a week in, but I've found one of the best books of the year. An American Marriage is an exquisitely written account of three people in love and how their lives and relationships are affected when one, Roy,  is sent to jail when wrongfully convicted of the rape of an older woman. His wife, Celestial, eventually decides that she cannot remain married to him, and tells him so three years into his 12-year sentence. However, two years after that, Roy is finally freed thanks to the efforts of Celestial's uncle. Roy goes home to see his wife (and her new fiancé Andre) to try and convince her to give them one last chance.

Within the intricacies of this strange relationship is the understanding of how race has impacted the lives of these three people. Roy was damned from the moment a white woman accused him of her rape, becoming yet another victim of the stilted US justice system. He becomes yet another victim when his wife abandons him in prison (no mention of the times he metaphorically abandoned multiple times in the 18 months they had together before his conviction). The characters in this book are all driven by their identity as African Americans, an undercurrent of awareness that their experience of the American Dream is already different from what others may consider 'normal.'

"Roy is a hostage of the state. He is a victim of America. The least you could do is unhand his wife when he gets back ... You want this man to come home after five years in the state penitentiary for some bullshit he didn't even do, and you want him to come back and see his wife with your little ring on her fingers and you talking about you love her? I'll tell you what Roy is going to see: he is going to see a wife who wouldn't keep her legs closed and a so-called friend who doesn't know what it is to be a man, let alone a black man."

This book is an emotional tour de force that I would recommend to every fan of contemporary fiction. It dragged my heart through the ringer and left me breathless at the final confrontation between these three passionate people. The only complaint I have is that the epilogue seemed to wrap things up a little too-tidily, but not nearly enough for me to deduct even half a star from my rating. Pre-order this book, today.
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My first five-star read of 2018. It's not often that I read a literary fiction with my heart pounding until the last lines. The characters Jones writes are so compelling and real that I feel like if I read the book again they just might have changed their conversations and actions.

An American Marriage follows three main characters: Celestial, Roy, and Andre. After being married only 18 months, Celestial and Roy are driven apart by a false rape accusation which sends Roy to jail. Andre, who introduced the couple, becomes an integral connection between them while the Roy is imprisoned. Once released, Roy has to put the pieces of his life back together. Is Celestial still his wife? Is he still the man he was? These questions are far more complicated than they appear at first.

Jones weaves the narratives of these three characters together in heart-breaking ways, bringing up ideas of family of origin versus family of choice. One interesting thread connecting each part of the plot is the way that parents shape our perception of family and marriage, and the people that we come to be as adults. 

Loved, LOVED this one. Will be suggesting it to everyone.
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For those of you who follow my book blog Laurie's Lit Picks, you know I have spent a bit of time over the last couple years reading non-fiction about prison reform (ie Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow) and the need for true justice in America. In a powerful new novel, acclaimed author Tayari Jones brings us a fiction book that explores what happens to a young marriage when it is ripped apart by injustice. Roy and Celestial, a young married couple who are living the American Dream in Atlanta, journey home to Louisiana to visit Roy's parents; a night at a motel leads to a false accusation of rape against Roy and the subsequent conviction and incarceration in a state prison. Told through the voices of Roy and Celestial, and eventually Andre, Celestial's childhood friend and third cog in the romantic triangle of tragedy, this book blew me away. It is a deep character study of how mass incarceration impacts individuals; we see the toll it takes on a young marriage, on Roy's parents, on Celestial's relationship with her friends, family, and her young husband, and most importantly, on Roy's own life as he watches his career, his home, his reputation, his very essence slip away. Told through three powerful voices, this is a compelling profound read on today's justice system and the impact mass incarceration has on black America. I highly recommend this book for book clubs and individuals; it will provide a great deal of provocative material to digest.
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Beautifully told, heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting, this is the story of a young marriage and the occurrences both within and outside of that relationship that affect not only the two people in the marriage, but also those closest to them. Race, class, gender and societal issues are addressed within the context of the story, which is both timely and timeless. Go into this knowing little to nothing of the book's details so that you can let the story unfold as the narrators tell it to you, each sharing their own perceptions about the events that touch them all and shape them in different ways. Tayari Jones will take you to the southern setting that is a vibrant character of its own and won't let you go until you read the last page.
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I really enjoyed this, it felt timely and important and the writing was very powerful.
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Pardon the structure of this review: sent from my phone. The story is told from Roy, Celestial, and Andres POV. You love and hate them each at different times.

This is a book about family, obligation, and choices- those that are forced upon you and those you want to make. Incredible writing. She brings you into the story quickly and gets you to care and Empathize.

Get to learn about the bulk of their relationship through letters. Fitting, seeing as how that's how they spent most of it. 

Very straightforward way of talking about racism in America. But it's not just about that -  It's telling a story about one specific family.. Would be a good classic book for people to read 100 years from now To see what life was like in America in the south in the 2010s. Beautiful description of time and place. Evocative without being distracting. Does attempt to say something about America, but in the end it's a story of a marriage. 

There are no dates with on letters. We pass the time as Roy must. Dates and times are meaningless - can only tell time has passed via his relationship with celestial. 

Get to see how so much of Roy's identity was wrapped up in things: relationship with celestial, degree, shoes. Scrapped so hard for it. See how embarrassing and demeaning it was for him to need.

Companion read- the new Jim Crowe.

Loved to see how the parents felt- big Roy and Franklin. Men . "Unhand his wife."

This book is heartbreaking and raw and moments sneak up on you. Big Roy throwing dirt on the grave. 

Very aptly named book. Many different types of relationships and families. Not always a choice. 

Add big Roy to best dad's list. He's fighting for his son left and right and is deeply devoted to his wife. 

These are the books I love. This is why I read. Human stories that make me feel alive. 

I will come back later to add a link to my review once I clean it up and post. So moved by this book, I wanted to give feedback asap.
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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones starts off with a bang.  Celestial and Roy are newlyweds who are suddenly ripped apart because of a false accusation that turns into a prison sentence for Roy.  This story deals with the aftereffects of the prison sentence on what was a very happy marriage.  We get to know Celestial and Roy as well as other members of their families and friends.  This is a quick and riveting read.  Enjoy!
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This was a fascinating story. I feel like it's one of those books where the less you know about it, the better. I can see why this book is being touted as not-to-be-missed. The characters seem so real, and the various depictions of marriage are interesting to consider. This one will stick with me for a long time.
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A new novel by Tayari Jones is cause for celebration. Silver Sparrow was one of my favorite books the year it was released and I couldn’t wait to read this new one. But, when I first read the blurb for this novel it didn’t actually get me that excited about reading it. I’m not the guy for stories situated around romance of any kind and I wasn’t sure even the vast talents of Ms Jones could change my opinion of that.

The first 80-100 pages certainly didn’t help once I found out that I would be reading a series of letters between two of the main characters. Did I miss reading somewhere that this is an epistolary novel? Certainly this would be another reason for concern - for me at least. Not to worry, it’s not.

Reading beyond the 100 pages the immense, compelling and captivating storytelling skills of Tayari Jones really takes flight. All of a sudden I was totally immersed in this story of a love triangle (yes, I said love triangle which I usually abhor) between three Atlantans that involves the justice (injustice) system, rape, Louisiana, secrets, lies and more.

What I really like about this novel is where Silver Sparrow seemed to highlight the relationships between girls, women, mothers for the most part. This book seem to be a sort of love letter to young black boys, men and fathers. 

Tayari writes fresh, simple stories that are about everyday life. She reels you in before you realize it and then you're absolutely hooked. I loved this book and I think you will too.
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A slow burn of a novel that swept me up and wouldn't let go. We get to know and love the young couple at the heart of the novel before we witness the terrifying scene in the motel, when they are forced to surrender the clear promise of the future they have dreamt of and worked for. Because each character is rendered with such tenderness, and because the injustice they face is one so many innocent black men and their families have faced, the novel has the terrible, resounding ring of truth.

My grandmother was a white sharecropper in Mississippi who told me stories of how her fingers bled from picking cotton. As a young man, my grandfather suffered deep and frequent humiliations for his poverty, But despite the enormous difficulties they faced, I have always been aware that, their skin color granted them certain clear privileges in the pre-civil rights Deep South--namely, the privilege of safety. Jone's story felt personal to me, somehow intertwined with the reality of my family's own complicated history, in a way that few novels do.
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This is a beautiful novel about marriage, race, and friendship. Once I got started I could not put it down. I would highly recommend it.
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This book presented a perspective on an aspect of the black American experience that was unique to me as a white American. The injustice of being wrongly accused and the consequences in the lives of those who are was heartfelt.  I loved Tayari Jones' SILVER SPARROW and picked it for my book club several years ago and it was loved by all of our members. I am not sure this story will resonate with the general reading public, but the love triangle was very well portrayed, and I think that is something many can relate to.
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Enjoyable and thought provoking, Tayari Jones gives every side to a story that makes us question not only the legal system, but our own hearts.
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After only one year of marriage, Roy is arrested for a crime his wife, Celestial, knows he did not commit. We, as readers, also know he is not guilty, yet he is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Instead of focusing on the question of guilt or innocence, this novel asks the question: How do you find your way back to a life that is no longer yours--one that you never really knew in the first place? This complicated and heartbreaking commentary on marriage and justice (or lack thereof) is a must-read in 2018.
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It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me as a reader that the epistolary section of this book was my favorite. Letters can say so much and still leave so much unsaid. The first-person sections, which alternate among three narrators, were more straightforward, though no less affecting. I loved watching the younger characters learn from their elders what different kinds of marriages can look like. 

Roy's situation was devastating; because it's also devastatingly common, we need more (and more and more and more) stories like this one.
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If I could tell you only one thing about this book it would be "don't read the synopsis"  go in not having a clue what this book is about.  I did and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book.  You will love it.  Don't read anything else about it, discover it for yourself.  Trust me!
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