An American Marriage

An American Marriage

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 know...

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Title:An American Marriage
Author:Tayari Jones
Rating:
Edition Language:English

An American Marriage Reviews

  • Brandice

    Is it possible that in mid-February I’ve already read my favorite book of 2018?

    was outstanding. Not only did I immediately become hooked and stay invested in the story, the quality of the writing was pure excellence.

    A newlywed couple, Roy and Celestial, are early on in their marriage when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. This changes the course of their lives and feelings, and the story unfolds from here. Roy’s conviction is overturned 5

    Is it possible that in mid-February I’ve already read my favorite book of 2018?

    was outstanding. Not only did I immediately become hooked and stay invested in the story, the quality of the writing was pure excellence.

    A newlywed couple, Roy and Celestial, are early on in their marriage when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. This changes the course of their lives and feelings, and the story unfolds from here. Roy’s conviction is overturned 5 years into his sentence too, changing things once again.

    There were different points in the book where I disliked all three of the primary characters, however I was so engrossed I had to keep reading to find out how this story would play out. I feel like there was excess in trying to frame Celestial as an independent woman though - Outside of a professional sense, I didn’t find her to be that independent at all. Her actions, to me, definitely indicated otherwise. I liked that while Roy and Celestial were both adults, their parents still played a central role in the story. I also enjoyed the many authentic Atlanta references throughout the book.

    portrays realistic behaviors and actions people experience, themselves and through others, and this is why I enjoyed it so immensely. While I just didn’t want it

    end, I really liked the ending.

  • Elyse

    Update: 2018 National Book Awards: Fiction

    Another great choice pick this year!!!

    SMALL UPDATE: I said I would come back and write a more complete review... but a few comments in here have inspired and encouraged me ... to perhaps leave this review alone.

    So.., I’ll only add a couple of things.

    Sharing First: it’s funny - what happens to our minds when we move on right away to reading other books after a deep thought- provoking read...

    It’s like ADDING more children to the family - expanding our h

    Update: 2018 National Book Awards: Fiction

    Another great choice pick this year!!!

    SMALL UPDATE: I said I would come back and write a more complete review... but a few comments in here have inspired and encouraged me ... to perhaps leave this review alone.

    So.., I’ll only add a couple of things.

    Sharing First: it’s funny - what happens to our minds when we move on right away to reading other books after a deep thought- provoking read...

    It’s like ADDING more children to the family - expanding our heart to love and think about each one - differently- but each so special.

    Recently it’s been like a grand slam rocking hot reading explosion experience.

    It started with “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Radish..(which I still think about)...

    And THIS book...( which I still think about)

    and now two others: “Fair and Tender Ladies” by Lee Smith

    and

    “The Gunners” by Rebecca Kauffman

    BOTH of these two books I’m currently reading are EACH SOO GOOD - it’s a race to the finish line - as to which I’ll finish first... as I’m now so ‘deeply’ involved- in ecstasy reading both books (Listening to “The Gunners” during the day.. reading “Fair and Tender Ladies at night and middle of the night)

    My mind is swimming with wonderful feelings and thoughts and experiences of great created characters from our books

    Little friends in our head.

    So... there are MANY VARIED REVIEWS on

    “THE AMERICAN MARRIAGE”....

    I’m only going to add one more final thought:

    Opinion really!

    I honestly believe there is something of great value in this book for: women- men- married or single - black - white - any nationality- all legal adult ages - young 20’s on up.

    I mentioned in my little review that this book is a great ‘ examination of marriage...

    I ALSO think it’s a great discussion whether or not to MARRY or NOT in this day and age.

    There is ‘something’ ( no spoilers) - to pay close attention to at the beginning of this book... BEFORE MARRIAGE...

    We’ve ALL had those experiences where our gut is warning us — something doesn’t feel right - our souls don’t feel secure & safe—

    but then as thinking beings— we’ve intellectualized the situation and let it go...

    only later to kick ourselves for not taking the GUT MESSAGE more serious.

    There was a ‘red flag’ moment in this story ..that I knew was going to come back to ‘haunt’ ... and it did.

    My heart ached at that moment.

    The ending of this book is also powerful - and in my opinion clearly sends a message.

    Not only had every character been broken— but culture conditions of injustice proved to be devastating too. EVERYONE WAS AFFECTED FROM THE HORRIFIC INJUSTICE...

    but sadly - facing reality—

    personal problems didn’t get swept under the rug.

    Small problems didn’t get replaced with bigger ones.

    Brene Brown talks about learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

    “The American Marriage” plays out those type of dialogues of communication. Characters were practicing being comfortable with very uncomfortable communication.

    Truthful dialogue surfaced through letters. Later, face to face.

    Original... little review:

    Phenomenal intimate gut-wrenching storytelling. Every character has been wounded. Their struggles are REAL.

    Personally I had empathy for everyone— but I can understand if readers favor one character over another. There are complex uncomfortable situations throughout.

    I could imagine how each person felt from their point of view. I felt those emotions, too.

    This novel is definitely a ‘discussion’ book...

    an examination of marriage: what happens when horrific circumstances literally change the direction of life? EVERYONE IS AFFECTED!

    EVERYONE reacts differently!

    I’ve much admiration for the wisdom —the depths — of understanding that Jones has for all the many types of relationships we have in our lives.

    I need to get some sleep ...I’ll continue the rest of this review tomorrow or over the weekend.

  • Emily May

    I know it's still early, but I've got a feeling

    . It is a powerful, subtle, sad tale about the criminal justice system in America, and the personal, long-term consequences of its injustices.

    There's a lot of discussion, articles and fiction looking at race-based injustice in the prison system of the United States. Most of these focus on racial-profiling of young black men, and how juries

    I know it's still early, but I've got a feeling

    . It is a powerful, subtle, sad tale about the criminal justice system in America, and the personal, long-term consequences of its injustices.

    There's a lot of discussion, articles and fiction looking at race-based injustice in the prison system of the United States. Most of these focus on racial-profiling of young black men, and how juries are more likely to convict a black man than a white man when presented with the same evidence.

    , though, does something a bit different.

    While race - specifically, being a black American - is one of the major pillars of the novel, it is not so much the focus as the stage on which this tale of love, marriage and loyalty plays out. Instead of looking at the injustice itself, the novel turns to the far-reaching consequences of it - how lives are turned upside down and relationships fall apart as a result. It is

    , moving between the perspectives of the entirely non-white cast to create a character portrait that is both broad and deep.

    Roy is a hard-working, entrepreneurial black man who has clawed his way out of a working-class background, earned a scholarship to college, and married a middle-class artist, Celestial. Next step: starting a family together. Then, during a trip back home to Louisiana, Roy is accused and convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

    As the first person narrative gives way to an epistolary format during Roy's time in prison, we see how Roy's incarceration drives a wedge between him and Celestial.

    asks us to consider what it really means to be married, and whether there comes a point when loyalty can no longer be expected.

    We are ultimately reminded that injustices against innocent black men are injustices against many others - the wives or husbands, the mothers and fathers, and the friends who love them. Jones sheds a haunting light on the all-encompassing nature of racial injustice.

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  • Debbie

    I look a little funny on my pogo stick (yes, this is a pogo stick kind of book) since I have just one sock on, but I have my reasons, really I do. The reason is that there was a slump for me in the middle of the story, so that one sock just held onto my foot like nobody’s business. But it was a short-lived slump, and the beginning and the end of the book are so insanely powerful, the other sock almost flew off my other foot. Since

    I look a little funny on my pogo stick (yes, this is a pogo stick kind of book) since I have just one sock on, but I have my reasons, really I do. The reason is that there was a slump for me in the middle of the story, so that one sock just held onto my foot like nobody’s business. But it was a short-lived slump, and the beginning and the end of the book are so insanely powerful, the other sock almost flew off my other foot. Since I can’t ignore the slump—where there was a teensy dash of god and ghosts (my most un-favorite set of “gees”)—I have to bounce around on the pogo stick with just one foot al fresco. Fine by me.

    Okay, okay, enough about my stupid socks. No need to talk about feet, for god’s sake. The main point is I’m flying high on my pogo stick because this book is amazing! So much depth and emotion! I just finished and I must write this review immediately so I transfer my excitement to the page while it’s rip-roarin’ hot.

    Here is how I felt: hyper-happy, then a yawn (and the threat of a Complaint Board), then hyper-happy on steroids.

    OMG what a great beginning! My favorite part was a series of intense letters between the married couple, Roy and Celestial. Wow are the letters loaded. There is conflict, misunderstandings, gentle accusations. Each point of view is real and honest and argumentative. This is what I call psychological action. Each of them cornered, they say what they really think. There is blame yet no blame. No sugar coating.

    Where did they go? They left and took the juice with them. Yep, about halfway through, I started to yawn. This was the beginning of the slump that kept my one sock on, tight, and made me consider dragging out the Complaint Board. Why couldn’t the whole book be in letters? Even though I started out by getting attached to the characters, now I started feeling detached. And damn, I skidded on a patch of God, where it appeared in a whole short chapter, plus at the beginning of the next. Other scenes I didn’t like were a funeral and a visit to a graveyard. I know it’s just me, but I usually don’t like ceremonies—in books or in real life (unless something big and surprising happens). The ghost appears at the graveyard scene, where a dead mom gives advice: be a good man, blah blah blah. I thought that it was sort of clichéd.

    Soon after the offending slump, I grabbed my pogo stick again. I wouldn’t think of pulling out the Complaint Board now. Hot damn! This is what I call high drama, and I loved it. It’s not melodramatic and it’s not over-the-top. It’s an incredibly realistic portrayal of marriage, a marriage that had to sustain a five-year separation. There is so much conflict, so much tension between the couple, I was riveted. This author gets into the heads of Roy and Celestial, and what we get is this tremendously insightful psychological story about the strength of love, guilt, expectations, disconnects. The author does an amazing job in making you empathize with Roy and his situation. He is flawed, however, and you don’t always accept his choices or actions—but you still love him.

    The dialogue is some of the most realistic I’ve read, and the story is as much about what isn’t uttered as about what is. It’s sharp, edgy, and honest. It has to do with illusions and delusions and hope and loyalty. It raises questions about relationships and morality. We know, for instance, that the reason for the separation, and what happened during that time, is no one’s fault. Feelings develop, feelings change—at least for some. Time changes things whether we like it or not. What is love and can people move on? Should you act on feelings when you know you shouldn’t? Do you stick it out when you really don’t want to? Can hope be powerful enough to get you what you want? It’s so much about the nuances of love and about how being apart can change things majorly.

    I don’t want to say anything about the plot, even about the big event at the beginning of the book that changes the course of Celestial’s and Roy’s life. I just love going into things cold, so that everything is a surprise. To me, that’s part of the fun of reading. Oh, I will say that I’ve read a few too many thrillers recently, because at the beginning I thought what was going on was sinister. Ha! No! Far from it! The book shows the severe consequences of social injustice (the cast is African-American) but it is in no way a message book.

    I always love it when a character does something you don’t expect. And that’s what is so cool about this book. When Roy returns after five years, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen, and I loved every single surprise in behavior. There was this edge, this fear, although I kept telling myself that nothing bad would actually happen. Or would it? I must say I was so attached to both characters by that time. I felt like I knew them really well, yet they kept acting in ways I wasn’t expecting. Much wringing of my hands, but I was rooting for them both, bigtime. The dilemma they faced seemed to have no possible good resolution. My eyes did not leave the pages for hours. The way the book ends is brilliant.

    I must say, too, that the writing is fantastic. There are little bits of wisdom throughout. Here is a sample of her wonderful words:

    I just remembered that long ago I read another novel by Jones, called

    . Ann Patchett recommended it, and since I was enamored with Patchett’s

    , I jumped to read any book she dangled in front of my face. I remember that I liked Silver Sparrow and was super impressed by the writing, but I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. An American Marriage, on the other hand, will stick with me, I’m sure.

    I’m still hopping inside, hyper-happy, pretty manic. I was skeptical about reading this book, since it’s an Oprah selection and thus will be a big seller. (Big sellers are often a letdown.) I’m SO glad I didn’t miss this one. The characters are complex, their relationship is messy, and the story is profound. Now let me continue down the road on my pogo stick, the other sock threatening to fly off…

  • Larry H

    4.5 stars, rounded up.

    4.5 stars, rounded up.

  • Diane S ☔

    Roy has done the best he could with the life he was given. Now married to Celestial, a young woman with dreams of her own, are traveling to meet his parents for the first time. The visit will prove less than successful, and a terrible miscarriage of Justice will occur that will detail their young lives and marriage.

    These are characters to that one wants to root for, wants things to turn out well for them. Of course, life seldom works that way, things change, circumstances beyond ones control int

    Roy has done the best he could with the life he was given. Now married to Celestial, a young woman with dreams of her own, are traveling to meet his parents for the first time. The visit will prove less than successful, and a terrible miscarriage of Justice will occur that will detail their young lives and marriage.

    These are characters to that one wants to root for, wants things to turn out well for them. Of course, life seldom works that way, things change, circumstances beyond ones control interfere. A story where events shape a future, where a chance meeting changes a life, where the only bad guy is the Justice system, a system it is almost impossible to defeat. The high cost of incarceration, prisons full of young black men, many times not given a voice, not believed or railroaded by a system who believes the must be guilty. For Roy, his life will never be the same. He must fight to remember who he was, where he was and what he wanted in his life.

    This author does an amazing job detailing the crisis in a marriage that was interrupted by the system. Her writing is clear, concise, but pointed and sharp. The characters fully developed people with wants and needs of their own. The love of a family, a father who cares for a son that was not always his, and a young woman who must make a decision that will definitely her life going forward. Quite a book, quite a story.

    ARC from Edelweiss.

  • Julie

    An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a 2018 Algonquin Books publication.

    Well drawn characterizations and a thought provoking and timely topic combines to make a potent blend, which kept me riveted to the pages of this book.

    Roy had done everything right, is successful, married to a beautiful woman, living the American dream- until he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison.

    Celestial finds her comfortable life turned on its axis after Roy is incarcerated. She remains loyal to her husban

    An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a 2018 Algonquin Books publication.

    Well drawn characterizations and a thought provoking and timely topic combines to make a potent blend, which kept me riveted to the pages of this book.

    Roy had done everything right, is successful, married to a beautiful woman, living the American dream- until he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison.

    Celestial finds her comfortable life turned on its axis after Roy is incarcerated. She remains loyal to her husband, but as the years pass, her life continues to move forward, while Roy’s stagnates behind bars, and her feelings for him begin to wane, prompting her to seek comfort from another man.

    Meanwhile, lawyers are working round the clock to get Roy’s conviction overturned- which miraculously, after serving five years, it is!!

    But, Roy, soon learns that easing back into his former life and resuming his marriage with Celestial is easier said than done.

    What stands out for me in this novel, are the little nuances. Roy, who opens the dialogue in the first chapter, drew me in with his honesty, and humor, which was occasionally sheepish and self- deprecating, even though I disapproved of some of his actions.

    Celestial was, for some reason, a character I found difficult to warm up to at first, but upon reflection, I think her character may have gone through the most productive growth of all.

    Celestial’s needs and expectations are different from Roy’s ideals, some of which can be attributed to male/female roles and expectations in a marriage, and others to their own individuality. But, throw in a HUGE live altering test of the marriage and it will either strengthen or fall apart. Which way did things go for Roy and Celestial?

    The other timely topics explored have to do with racism and mass incarceration. Prison life is fraught with danger and loneliness, and of course Roy missed his former life, but it was simple things, things we so easily take for granted that makes the bleakness of his situation come alive.

    Despite their flaws, and each party has their fair share of them, they were basically ordinary people thrown in an extraordinary circumstance and left to cope with those circumstances as best they could. They were both human, with real needs, desires, hopes, and dreams. Both made excuses, both played the blame game, but both have a bond together they find hard to break free of.

    The epistolary parts of the novel were well done, which exposes both the closeness and the awkwardness of the marriage, but also the way time robbed them of the growth marriages need to survive.

    The secondary characters were added depth and conflict and were also very well drawn, and equally affected by the outcome of Roy and Celetial's marriage.

    While the book is not filled with action or suspense, or even, despite the heaviness of the situation, is it melodramatic, with one exception, that, to be honest, almost had to happen, to break the tension that boiled to the surface. There were a few tense moments that made me pretty uncomfortable, but mostly the author just allowed the characters to flow, to take charge, and dictate the pacing. This approach sounds understated and maybe even underwhelming, but this story was incredibly absorbing, and I have to say the conclusion was surprising- but at the same time- not. Despite some misgivings and mixed emotions about how the characters ended up, overall, I think they may be exactly where they need to be, both as individuals and as a couple. It may be tempting to take sides, but I can’t say I would do better or worse in that same situation, but I did struggle with passing judgments on occasion.

    Either way, this is a well written examination of relationships and human foibles, and how otherwise normal, well intentioned, good people face adversity and come out on the other end of it changed, for better or worse.

    4 stars

  • Lindsay - Traveling Sister

    4 stars! This was a beautifully written, thought-provoking, slow burn novel that crept its way into my heart, settling deep within my bones. I will be thinking of these characters long after finishing this book.

    This story follows Roy and Celestial, a young newlywed couple who have a passionate and impetuous relationship – loving deeply and arguing stubbornly. They are from different “worlds”, but have found an explosive love and connection with one another. Less than two years after getting marr

    4 stars! This was a beautifully written, thought-provoking, slow burn novel that crept its way into my heart, settling deep within my bones. I will be thinking of these characters long after finishing this book.

    This story follows Roy and Celestial, a young newlywed couple who have a passionate and impetuous relationship – loving deeply and arguing stubbornly. They are from different “worlds”, but have found an explosive love and connection with one another. Less than two years after getting married, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years in prison for a crime Celestial knows he did not commit.

    The story is narrated by both Roy and Celestial, along with Celestial’s childhood friend Andre. There are several letters included throughout the story between various characters, mainly Roy and Celestial while he is in prison. These letters were a brilliant addition to the story – my connection with the characters grew stronger as each letter was revealed.

    The author, Tayari Jones, writes with such beauty and clarity. I was fully invested in this emotional and chaotic story, rooting for these characters to overcome their devastating situation. My heart has made a special spot for “Big Roy”, Roy’s father – he was an outstanding and unforgettable character – I simply adored him!

    I highly recommend this deep and touching book. It took a few chapters to pull me in, so be prepared for a slow burn that will gradually make its way into your soul.

  • Meredith

    Celestial and Roy, a young couple from Atlanta, have been married for just over a year when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Will their marriage survive their separation or will they be able to withstand Roy’s incarceration? The b

    Celestial and Roy, a young couple from Atlanta, have been married for just over a year when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Will their marriage survive their separation or will they be able to withstand Roy’s incarceration? The bulk of the story focuses on a love triangle between Roy, Celestial, and Celestial’s childhood friend, Andre. In addition to romantic love and marriage, themes of motherhood and fatherhood, race, class, and tradition also play prominent roles.

    Told in alternating point of views, as well as through letters, the devolution of Roy and Celestial’s marriage is revealed through their letters. Some of the events are hard to read, and at times, made me a little uncomfortable.

    This is not a pretty read, nor is it one that is filled with action. What it does have are three very real, well-drawn out characters who are struggling with both the choices that they have made and not being able to change what they cannot control. I felt their pain, their emotions permeate the pages, and even though I didn’t always agree with them, I understood their choice(s). The ending felt authentic and while some might not like the way how things play out, I was satisfied. This is a credit to Jones who paints an honest picture of the characters and events that occur.

  • Ashley

    2.5 stars

    I know this book is getting a lot of buzz and it was Oprah's Book Club pick so I had really high hopes but it didn't really work for me. I started to give it 3 stars but after thinking more on it I just couldn't. For me, a 3-star rating means that overall I enjoyed the book. However, this book just didn't rise to that level.

    I'll start with what I did like. I liked how the author weaved in the complexities of being a successful black American. Roy was a rising business executive but bec

    2.5 stars

    I know this book is getting a lot of buzz and it was Oprah's Book Club pick so I had really high hopes but it didn't really work for me. I started to give it 3 stars but after thinking more on it I just couldn't. For me, a 3-star rating means that overall I enjoyed the book. However, this book just didn't rise to that level.

    I'll start with what I did like. I liked how the author weaved in the complexities of being a successful black American. Roy was a rising business executive but because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and fit a certain description his life/marriage was upended. The first part of the book is in epistolary form where we see the letter exchanges between Celestial and Roy while he was prison. In those letters you can see the slow changes in their relationship as time went on. This is basically the only part of the book where I felt any semblance of a connection to the story.

    Now for what I didn't like ... the characters. I didn't connect to Roy or Celestial so I didn't feel invested in their story. Also, I understand that life and marriages can be messy and that some decisions we make aren't always cut and dry. But some of the decisions that Celestial and Roy were making were nonsensical to me and not fully explained. Particularly in Celestial's case toward the end of the book. I didn't understand her. Maybe I'm missing something.

    Overall, I didn't have a strong emotional connection to the story. I'm sure many people will love this book but it wasn't for me.

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