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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
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An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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An affluent black woman marries a man who is sent to prison for something he did not do. His twelve-year sentence was reduced to five years. Alas, he came home to early for his wife and her old friend whom she now sees as a wonderful life partner. Except, what to do about Roy, who on Christmas Eve shows up on the doorstep of his wife.

This was not as good as some of the author's other books.

This was simply a 3 star read. There were too many sub stories, non of which helped the story. ( )
  Whisper1 | Jun 10, 2019 |
Interesting examination of a budding marriage, one stopped in its tracks when the husband is falsely accused of a terrible crime and incarcerated for five yrs until his lawyer's appeals/efforts can get him released. The young wife, Celestial, her supportive childhood friend Andre (in love with her himself) and her husband Roy all take turns narrating the warp and weave of their earlier lives, their parents, and Celestial's growing realization that a husband absent, is a husband no longer in her heart. This begins the growing conflict as Andre and Celestial finally become a couple, and prepare to help Roy see the truth when he is released and arrives in Atlanta to claim his wife, and his former life. While Roy's angry reaction to his friend and wife's new relationship is expected, the writer's descriptions of the emotional journey each character takes, their interactions with family, esp parents, and how that affects their views and choices is refreshing, tenderhearted without being sappy. Author's prose shifts in tone and vernacular w/each character's voice, but in every chapter it seems, she slips in thoughtful observations - aphorisms about life, family, duty, love - enjoyed this book. ( )
  BDartnall | Jun 4, 2019 |
This was just meh for me. I was bored. ( )
  jill1121 | Jun 1, 2019 |
Phenomenal.

It started out slow and crept up on me. Celestial and Roy are middle-class black Atlantans who have a turbulent but promising marriage. They haven't really settled in yet, after a year and a half, but they're getting there. And then Roy gets arrested for a crime he didn't commit, is convicted despite good representation, and is sentenced to serve 12 years hundreds of miles away from Celestial.

Roy's imprisonment is the central driver of the story, but Jones doesn't dwell on the details of his incarceration. Instead she spirals both out, looking at the effects on the couple and their family and friends, and in, looking at what it does to their bond. Celestial is firmly in the black bourgeoisie, and she draws on moral and financial support from her parents and her best friend Dre. She pursues her career and becomes very successful, growing farther from Roy even as her relationship with him and her feelings for him provide the foundations for her creative success. Roy has his country-bred, modestly placed parents to support him, but they can't do much, and Celestial slowly separates from him.

The toll on Celestial and Roy is revealed through a section comprised entirely of their letters to each other and although it is relatively short, it is riveting. Jones conveys so much so sparely and compactly. After Roy's conviction is overturned the story picks up momentum and action, but the deep characterization gives it layers beyond the personal love triangle as well as the sociological weight of a black woman "failing" to stand by her man. The extent to which African-Americans' personal choices and actions are burdened by their history and their own and their community's expectations are embedded in every word on every page. Roy's innocence doesn't mitigate the stigma of his prison time, and Celestial's need to move on with her life (they are apart much longer than they were together) doesn't mitigate her sense of disloyalty and selfishness (or the condemnations of her actions by those who love her).

The supporting characters are beautifully depicted and a sense of place suffuses the novel. Despite the sadness, the ending is hopeful and earned. The tragedy is in the context and structure, not the characters, who do all they can with the hands they've been dealt. ( )
  Sunita_p | May 18, 2019 |
This novel has a surprisingly unique premise, and one I didn't anticipate. It is thought-provoking that lives can be altered forever by the misguided accusation of people looking for justice or, in this case, injustice. Celestial and Roy are living in a marriage that has its fair share of challenges, but nothing can prepare them for the nightmare that results from Roy's kind act to a woman who later is certain that he committed a heinous crime. It is difficult to comprehend the racism that still exists in the south. I, too, live in Atlanta, although in a northern suburb, so seeing it on the news and reading about it are a haunting reminder that skin color can determine how people are treated within and outside of the justice system.

The story is told from the perspectives of three people who are bound forever in an untenable situation. The characters are well developed, as are their relationships with each other. Our sympathies lie with all of them as they attempt to forge a new normal. ( )
  pdebolt | May 16, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

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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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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