Book Club: An American Marriage
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Oprah could tell me the world was flat and I would buy it (well, maybe not exactly, but you get the idea). An American Marriage was a recommendation by her in her book club and I knew I had to read it. For a book whose central characters I have absolutely nothing in common with, it really had me hooked and I hope that you'll read my review to see what I mean.
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.
Related post: Book Club: The Hate U Give
Even though Oprah is the queen, I really wasn't sure if this book would really be my cup of tea, especially when I read the first few chapters. It was pretty clear I had nothing in common with any of the central characters - I'm not married, I'm not lusting after anyone who is married, I'm not black, and I have never been nor known anyone who has been incarcerated.
Yet after I got past those initial hesitations, I realized, perhaps that's the point? Even though I don't have anything in common with the characters externally, there were times some of the thought processes of Celestial, Roy, and Andre both made sense and didn't make sense to me. Oddly enough, that makes sense to me because I don't always know why I do the things I do or think the things I think.
Roy and Celestial have only been married for a year when their life takes a drastic turn. Roy is a young up and coming sales executive and Celestial is on the verge of making a breakthrough in her art career. Roy is accused of a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison. In a series of letters you see that he switches back and forth from wanting Celestial to wait for him to wanting her to move on with her life. Celestial during this trying time, turns to her childhood friend, Andre who also happened to be the best man at her wedding, and begins a romantic relationship with him.
Andre's sentence is suddenly commuted after five years and when he gets out, he realizes that so much has changed already, but because Celestial never filed for divorce during their time apart giving him a sense of hope.
This book is definitely not action-packed, nor fast-paced. The scene of the trial was maybe only a few pages and written with few details. The point is not what happens in the story, the book is about the characters and how they feel and think. Boy did it ever make me think. An American Marriage is about the nuances - the book explores the themes of race, incarceration, love, and relationships in a way that is both subtle and not-so-subtle and I found myself really enjoying that line that Tayari Jones masterfully walked. Many times, I found myself shaking my head at the characters because I just could not relate to their choices and caught myself thinking to myself, "I would never do that," but the character development was so strong that it kept pulling me in.
I gave this book four stars on Goodreads and I really think it's worth a read for everyone! I mean, if Oprah says you should read it, you should.