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An American Marriage (Oprah's Book…
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An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel (edition 2019)

by Tayari Jones (Author)

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1,2581339,465 (3.97)121
Member:pltgsage
Title:An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel
Authors:Tayari Jones (Author)
Info:Algonquin Books (2019), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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This review can also be found on my blog.

I’ve struggled for days to write this review. An American Marriage is well-written and engaging and while I appreciate what Tayari Jones did with this book, I just felt so frustrated reading it. Roy, the husband in the couple at the center of the story, treats his wife Celestial like little more than property and at one point even tells her he could rape her if he wanted to. I felt like he was irredeemably awful at times to the point where I wanted to put down the book and not pick it up again. I wish I had loved this more and it certainly wasn’t bad, but it also isn’t something that I see sticking with me. ( )
  samesfoley | Apr 24, 2019 |
A beautifully written book, An American Marriage is a nuanced story about complicated people and complicated issues.

Roy and Celestial are complex people who for me, end up just barely on the wrong side of likable. I felt like I needed a bit more lead up to the letter writing portion of the story so that I could’ve read through a different lens. There’s this automatic empathy built in for Roy because of what he went through, but he’s a complicated guy who did and said plenty of bad things too. I think I was expecting both of them to fit more into the traditional mold of a protagonist so my expectations may have tainted my perception of them here.

The way this story tackles parenthood felt so nuanced and powerful, each relationship different in its own way. The familial relationships drove this book for me, and the Roy/Celestial/Andre triangle took a back seat. The epilogue felt authentic but in the end I felt like there was something missing. I want to root for someone when I read and outside of Big Roy, there was no one I liked enough or knew enough to root for, so I was left with all my feelings about the systemic issues but felt a bit hollow towards the characters which is why it’s not a 5 star. ( )
  jesmlet | Apr 23, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book has won so many awards and received so many accolades that it hardly needs my voice. This is a good thing because despite really loving previous books by Jones, I did not love this one. It is every bit as well written as the others but I could not connect with it, could not understand or sympathize with the characters, and found myself wanting to lecture one of them for pure selfishnesss and poor choices. Not a good combination to be sure!

Celestial and Roy have only been married for a year when Roy is wrongfully accused and convicted of raping a woman in a hotel. As he serves his sentence, wife Celestial is serving an unjust sentence of her own, stripped of her husband and the life they had planned. Celestial is a child of privilege, having parents who made it through hard work into the African American upper middle class in Atlanta and who have given their only daughter everything she ever wanted. Roy was raised in a small Alabama town with loving parents but not a lot of money. Together Roy and Celestial are in the black professional class and have good prospects for the future until Roy's accuser is believed over his well-spoken but stiff wife who was with him the entire evening in question. All of a sudden, their lives are completely derailed. Roy goes to prison and Celestial eventually starts a boutique filled with art piece dolls that she's made. Roy has no choice but to wait to be reunited with Celestial but how long can she wait, especially with her life-long best friend André waiting in the wings?

Much of this is told through letters, perfect considering the distance between Celestial and Roy both in terms of physical geography and in terms of legal status. Most of the letters are between the two of them but there are some others interspersed as well to complete the picture. Roy is probably the least complicated character because he must endure the loss of everything he cares about, his liberty, his wife, his marriage. Although Celestial's uncle is trying to get him out, he essentially has no recourse once he is declared guilty. He is honest about his emotions, the rage and the despair he faces, and about the pieces of his life where he was not entirely free of blame in their marriage. Celestial, however, was entirely unsympathetic to me. When Roy is sentenced to years in prison, Celestial is also sentenced to a life she never wanted or chose. But she had the ability to move on without considering Roy too terribly much. Her frequent assertion that she and Roy barely knew each other when he was arrested sounded like nothing more than a flimsy excuse to move on. It's not like they met each other the day they married so she certainly had more than that one year to go on in terms of his character and their relationship. The fact that her parents supported her, making her dreams come true and shielding her from any other hardship, made her even less sympathetic since she suffered only the smallest of emotional hardships during Roy's incarceration. In fact, Jones' creation for her of a doll making career, even if it was "art," just further infantilized her as a character. In leaning so heavily on André, the friend whose advances she'd long ago spurned, she took the easy, selfish road. There's a revelation late in the book where Roy gave her permission to do something she wanted to do anyway so that she wouldn't feel all the guilt herself that I just can't accept of a woman who truly loved her wrongfully incarcerated husband and intended to create a long term life with him. As for André, well he's milquetoast with Celestial and if you consider him Roy's friend, well, with friends like that... The only character I actually liked in here? Celestial's father, who shoots straight with her and mirrors many of my thoughts on the one big life choice he knows of her making.

I spent most of the book frustrated and not at the right things. Yes, I was frustrated by a justice system that failed this man so spectacularly but I also wanted to yank Celestial by the hair and tell her to get herself straight and do the right thing. Jones is an amazing wordsmith and she highlights some really important, broken aspects of our culture but I was too annoyed by the narrative to pay as much attention to the larger message as I should have. Obviously others, not least of which many prize committees, entirely disagree with me. Maybe you will too. In fact, I hope you will because I don't wish my reading experience on anyone else. ( )
  whitreidtan | Apr 23, 2019 |
Good book. None of the three main characters are the hero and none the villain but all three are both. I would read more from this author if I cane across it but I wouldn’t search it out. ( )
  NixieH | Apr 17, 2019 |
Racism, prison, 2019 ( )
  HelenGress | Apr 16, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tayari Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crisden, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, EisaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
What happens to you doesn't belong to you,
only half concerns you. It's not yours. Not yours only.
-------------Claudia Rankine
Dedication
For my mother's sister, Alma Faye,
and for Maxine & Marcia, my own
First words
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don't.
Quotations
But home isn't where you land; home is where you launch. You can't pick 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.
She pulled away and walked to my bedroom and closed herself in with a little click of the knob. I could have pursued her. A paper clip could best the catch, but when a woman shuts you out, picking the lock won't let you back in.
You don't know what you need until somebody gives it to you exactly the way you need it gave.
It matters that I didn't grow up with my father. It's kind if like having one leg that's a half inch shorter than the other. You can walk, but there will be a dip.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when 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.… (more)

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