An American Marriage

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

I really tired to like this book in the end. I really did. I just could never connect with the characters. It had a great start to the book but then it took a wide turn and never corrected itself.
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After finishing this novel, I tried hard to recollect in how many novels did I read that so quietly and poignantly explore the intimacy of marriage with African American characters.  I remember almost ten years ago reading her first two novels and one thing remains the same--her grasp of those quiet moments and the language of the unspoken.  I loved this novel and will continue to support Mrs. Jones work.
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My Rating:  5 Stars

I read Tayari Jones’ previous novel, Silver Sparrow, and enjoyed the book and her writing style, so I was eager to read her latest novel, American Marriage.  Both books are set in Atlanta, and I seem to have strange little connections to both books.  In this most recent one, she mentions a street I used to live on, a date that was my Dad’s birth date, a majorette (I was one in high school), and there was another odd one that I can’t remember now.  Even without the odd connections, her beautiful writing grabs my attention.

Celestial and Roy are a young married couple with big dreams and living a good life.  They grew up with different backgrounds: Roy came from a working class family but received a scholarship to college and is now an executive. Celestial comes from a family with a higher socioeconomic status after her father made it big from an invention.  She is an up and coming artist who makes unique dolls.  They are on a trip back to Louisiana so Celestial can meet Roy’s family when tragedy strikes and he is falsely accused of a crime and arrested because he is a black man.  The book examines race in our culture and how African Americans are treated differently than white people, but it also goes beyond that to explore what happens to a couple early in their marriage facing a difficult battle and what are the ripple effects of injustices not only on the victim but his friends and family.  Should a a spouse remain loyal when her husband has been locked away in jail for years?  How does the marriage change?  The story initially is told in alternating first person narrative between Celestial and Roy but then switches to letters between them and from Celestial’s best friend growing up, Andre, while Roy is imprisoned.

In addition to the compelling writing and story, these characters are real and well-drawn.  I really felt their pain and struggles.  I definitely recommend you read this book, and I think it would be a good book for book groups to discuss.
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I enjoyed this thought provoking #diversespines March selection.  AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE had me on an emotional rollercoaster and I’m still thinking about it 4 weeks later.  Tayari delivered an authentic story with many themes and layers.  Whether you are talking about the roles of fathers, class, education, marriage, black men in America, the American justice system, family or love this book will catapult you into a wide rage of conversations.

Although this book had many layers the most poignant moment for me was after I finished the book.  A friend asked me how did I come to the conclusion that the woman who accused Roy of rape  was a white woman when the author never mentioned race.  I was shocked when I came to the realization that Tayari had not mentioned race & that my conclusion was made totally from life experiences.  My conversation instantly became one of how the title “American” made think about our justice system, the discrimination against black people, the ideology to fear the black man, the myth surrounding black fathers and mass incarceration all played a role in my framing my conclusion. I have since posed this question to other readers & all of the responses vary.  Oh how I love the power of a story.

And then there’s the other word in the title, “Marriage”. During my @litonhst bookclub meeting I was able to see several point of views from readers on how they thought the newness of Roy and Celestial’s marriage, the foundation on which it was built and their backgrounds all impacted their trajectory.  The false imprisonment of Roy had me pondering on what it truly means “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Although I was #TeamRoy, no one really knows how they would react in a situation until they are standing toe to toe with a dilemma. 
Oprah was right, “this story is so juicy you’re going to want to talk to someone about it.” I still need to talk!
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This book was absolutely incredible.  Hands down one of my top reads of 2018 and so deserving of all the hype that it has received.
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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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