An American Marriageby Published 06 Feb 2018
|An American Marriage.pdf|
Named an Oprah’s Book Club Selection.
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.
An American Marriage Reviews
At the heart of this one is the story of Celestial and Roy. They are a young married couple with so much ahead of them. I would not say they had the perfect marriage or knew what marriage is really about in the beginning. They had money, good jobs, a promising life together, and then it was all shattered.
This is a in-depth story told from the point of view of both Celestrial and Roy and their friend, Andre. It also includes letters between them interweaving them into the story. Celestrial comes from money, her parents have money. Roy does not come from money, his parents seem to struggle. But Roy pushes himself in college and finally has a good high paying job. On a trip to see Roy's family, Celestrial and Roy decide to stay at hotel overnight. During this time, Roy is accused of rape - no spoiler here. He didn't do it, but is sent to prison for 12 years. His crime itself is not central in the story. It's never discussed other than he is sent to prison. And here you see how this impacts the marriage of Celestrial and Roy. It is such a wonderful, character driven novel. You see the struggles they face while Roy is incarcerated. You see from both points of view. You get the back story of their lives and how they met. Then, after years of his lawyer fighting his case, the lawyer being paid for by Celestrial's parents, he is freed. After 5 years away, he's ready to return home, to his wife, to his previous life. But that's just it...it WAS his *previous* life. Everything is different now. Celestrial has found comfort in the arms of their friend Andre. And after all this time, no one is the same person.
I really enjoyed this one. I listened to the audio version and the narrators did a wonderful job. I felt that Roy and Celestrial were telling me their story. I was so immersed into this one and kept listening to more and more cause I had to hear how it would end, but I didn't want it to end. I was initially drawn by cover love, then I was sucked into by the wonderful story. I did not know who this author was but you can bet I'll be reading more by her. Why not a 5...well, I'm stingy. But the very end, the epilogue just went off the rails a bit for me. And one other item kinda threw me off. Finally, I would not read this one again. Don't get me wrong, I really liked it and would suggest to anyone to read. It's just, I know what happens. I'm so glad I read this and I'm sure I will be thinking of it for some time.
One of the things I liked the most about this novel is that a portion of the book is comprised of letters, mostly between Roy while in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and his wife Celestial. Letter writing seems like it’s from a bygone time and I never feel as if e-mail and certainly not texts adequately reflect the intimate picture of ourselves that a hand written letter does. This is not just about the intimate look at this one relationship, but it’s about their families and their pasts. On another level though, it’s a commentary on the judicial system that isn’t always fair and of the racism reflected in the prison system.
Through these letters and their alternating narratives as well as Andre, who is Celestial’s life long friend, the complexity of these individuals is depicted. It becomes clear in many ways how their pasts and their family situations shaped them as the adults they are today, but it isn’t clear about what their decisions will be moving forward when it is determined that Roy is innocent and is released from prison after serving five years. I was impressed with how evenly these characters are portrayed. I equally liked and disliked each of them at different times. The two characters that I had no reservations about were Ray’s parents Big Ray and Olive who loved Ray unconditionally. A lot of times like so many other readers I suspect, when we’re in the middle of a book we have an idea, a hope perhaps, of how we want the story to conclude . I wasn’t sure how I wanted this to end and I was surprised, but satisfied when I read the epilogue. Even though Roy and Celestial had been married for just over a year before he is incarcerated, it was sad that the racial injustices of the system, of society overall took from them the next five years of their marriage. A thought provoking and moving story for sure.
Thanks to Diane for sending me this book.
4 Compelling Stars.
Marriage, on its own is a complicated venture. Throw in anything else and Kapow! Everyone always says that first year of marriage is the hardest. For Celestial and Roy, nothing will prepare them for what is to come. Madly in love, they think they can conquer the world. Such wishful thinking. After being married for a year, Roy gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and is sentenced to twelve years in Prison. Twelve years. What a great start to their marriage. Initially, Celestial tries to be the dutiful, supportive loving wife, visiting and writing him, but as the months and years pass, it get harder and harder.
Told via letters exchanged between Roy and Celestial, this is a novel through which emotion flows like a river: sometimes, lazy and easy, and sometimes, like the river wild.
Have you ever exchanged letters with someone? Real letters? Not just cards or emails? They are more heartfelt, full of either friendship or romance and are a way to stay connected..and that is true here in “An American Marriage.” Roy’s letters to Celestial are real, full of love, feeling and need, changing over time, becoming bitter and angry. Celestial’s are loving, more reserved, more grounded. Always.
In my opinion however, neither character is likable, one even less than the other. Though I didn’t love either character, or any of the peripheral characters for the most part, this book resonated with me in a way that most would not. It brings forth feelings of anger, injustice, love and sorrow. It makes your heart hurt.. tears filling your eyes.
“An American Marriage” is a novel about racism, love and friendship, the trials and tribulations of marriage and the ramifications of the choices we make and those that are made for you. It is compelling and completely thought-provoking and I highly recommend it.
Published on Goodreads, Amazon and Twitter on 5.13.18.
Audiobook performed by Sean Crisden & Eisa Davis 9h
I really enjoyed the performance of these narrators as they breathe life into Tayari Jones' story. They definitely kept me riveted to my seat as the triple narrative between Celestial, Roy, and Andre unfolded. Given the title, the central story really is about this couple's marriage-their courtship and all that comes after. It was all the family relationships that convinced me this book was a solid 4 star rating. Oh and how I loved both Big Roy and Mr.Davenport! Their roles proved to be the cogs to keep the main storyline full of momentum as they challenged the three major protagonists over and over again.
Since its publication on Feb 6/18 and with Oprah's seal of approval "An American Marriage" is certainly heating up social media. Goodreads has over ten thousand strong reviews and it appears that this book is appealing to a wide range of diverse readers. Not all the reviews are glowing, but I believe that I have enjoyed reading all the various perspectives to the same degree that I have enjoyed reading/listening to this audio version.
Thanks to my Goodreads friend, La Tonya for the recommendation.
I can’t say that I loved An American Marriage. What I can say, is that it made me think deeply about human nature, love, and, of course, marriage.
This is a thought-provoking, well-written, depth-filled character study about a marriage on the brink.
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.