Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

Summary: Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. (Summary and pic from

My Review: This is one of those books that, though I’m giving it a very high rating, I didn’t love. I appreciated the story—it’s heartbreaking, really, and it’s so messy and painful that you can’t help but feel connected. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that these two live a very different life from me and experience things that I will never experience because they are African-American. I will never be able to understand what that’s like, and so I appreciated that I felt like I was given an insight into what it’s like to have to navigate race relations as an African-American in the country today. We’ve come a long way from the beginning, no doubt, but there’s still a long way to go. I appreciated that this book addressed those issues. Celestial and Roy, the two main characters, are living the life in the new South, where things are different but also the same in some ways. It’s hard not to be frustrated about this while reading An American Marriage.

The book is very well-written. I love books that do a good job with changing perspectives each chapter, and this is one of those books. I feel like I am able to connect to the characters when this is well done, and the advantage of seeing the story from different characters is that you have a more holistic view. In a book like this, where it’s very much a he-said she-said kind of story, and where there are complicated relationships going on, I appreciated being able to understand first-hand what each character was thinking.

I also enjoyed the storytelling in this book. I found the story to be very compelling and also realistic, which is part of what made it so painful and heartbreaking. This felt like something that could really happen, and on some levels, happens all the time. I appreciated the layers of relationships and depth of the story; Jones did an incredible job of creating a very complex and varied atmosphere that was equally simplistic in its summary but also very detailed and almost impossible to describe. Because of this, it felt very realistic but this is why I alternatively really enjoyed it but also didn’t really like it.

I’m really glad I read this book. I found it insightful, interesting, and well-written. I definitely understand why it has gotten the accolades it has gotten. I will for sure recommend it to people who are looking for something complex and interesting to read. Will I recommend it to gum-popping teenagers or Christian romance reading women? Probably not. I won’t give away the ending but it really doesn’t matter—this story is deep and hard and raw. I will definitely recommend it to my more thoughtful reading friends, especially those who appreciate how stories can be heartbreaking but also very rewarding and worthwhile.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some language, a vague discussion of rape, and vague discussions of sex. It is on par with other books in the genre.

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