REVIEW: AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE By Tayari Jones

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Publication Date: Feb 6th, 2018 By Algonquin Books

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 and seeks comfort with someone else. 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.

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This was one of my most anticipated winter reads as I’m so drawn to stories about innocent people in prison. While I usually read non-fiction stories involving this topic I couldn’t wait to see how it was explored by Jones in this fictional story. I’ll admit I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the flow of the story in the beginning and I think that was due to the writing style and possibly the character’s voices. We are initially introduced to Roy and Celestial in the first year of their marriage with occasional backstory of how they met interspersed. The narrative switches perspectives between both Roy and Celestial so we get to “hear” from both of them. The glimpses we get of their  marriage were intriguing because I found myself wondering if perhaps Roy was more invested in the marriage than Celestial.

As the story progressed, I began to like it even more, especially when Roy was unjustly convicted…it was tragic and I can’t imagine how that would affect not just Roy and Celestial but their marriage and their extended families. Everyone was traumatized. I’m going to be honest, once Roy went to prison and the story shifted to quite a lot of letter writing between the two as well as quite a bit of what felt like emotional examinations of everyone’s feelings, the story took on a meandering pace for me. By the halfway point, I found my mind wandering and I started to skim many sections. For me, this can be my struggle with literary fiction…I love the story and really want to just get to it and find out what happens to Roy, who will Celestial ultimately choose, and what will become of their marriage…instead the narratives meander to the distant past and to details of their everyday living that I just struggled staying interested in.

As the story neared the end, I’m not sure I fully connected with the ending but I will say Roy’s character…his fate and his future…is what kept me reading and hoping things would turn around for him. This was a really well conceived storyline that shed light on how our justice system can and does ruin lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it like I expected to and finished feeling pretty middle of the road.

Many thanks to Algonquin Books via Netgalley for my copy

 

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27 thoughts on “REVIEW: AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE By Tayari Jones

  1. I almost reached for this one yesterday but I felt like I needed something short and sweet after reading The Wife Between Us. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t love it. I think I’ll still give it a chance but I have seen a few less than stellar reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked everything about this book except the letter section. The voice of Roy was one of the things that most appealed to me and as the story went on I appreciated Celestial more and more. It was truly a tough situation for all of them. For me, all those letters from prison would have been better handled in a different way. As much as I loved Roy’s other sections, his letters dragged!

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    1. Yes the letters didn’t work at all for me. Roy’s voice saved this book for me and as for Celestial’s character, even by the end I’m not sure I felt like I knew her any better and maybe that was the author’s point with that character I’m not sure. It was a thought provoking read for sure

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  3. I’m reading this one now and hope to finish it today. I’m enjoying it so far. I’m hoping the ending is a good one. The entire situation they’re in is just difficult. I’m sorry it was a great read for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really intriguing premise. It’s too bad that it wanders a bit. I still might give it a try, because I’m curious about the insights into the justice system and the outcome, but I may have to pair it with something more gripping. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The premise sounds interesting but sorry to hear about the sections that didn’t grab your attention. I had a similar experience with my last read which I skimmed through quite a lot because mundane details that didn’t really move the story forward. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m only commenting to say that I did NOT read your full review; I am excited to read this one and do not want to skew my thoughts in one direction or another before I get started – ha! I’ll come back to read all of this when I finish! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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