“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.” – An American Marriage
A lot of people had raved about this book when it was published last year but I wasn’t sure if it was based on the fact that it was an Oprah book club pick. However, when it recently won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, I decided to put it on my TBR and finally got around to read it this month.
An American Marriage is a story about newly weds Roy Jnr. and Celestial, an African American couple living in Atlanta, Georgia. They are only married for a little over a year when Roy is falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit and is sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. The story is told from different perspectives; Roy, Celestial and Andre (Celestial’s best friend) and also through letters written between Celestial and Roy in prison. Their sudden predicament throws the young marriage in turmoil and when Roy is released five years later, the world has shifted far from where he left it and his marriage is not what he hoped it would be. This book is about racism, the justice system in the United States, the difficulties in marriage especially when a couple is torn apart either by their own choices or those made for them.
Tayari Jones has woven a beautifully written, thought provoking, captivating sad tale that will stay in my mind for a long time. It isn’t one that is filled with action or romance yet it puts you on the edge and gets you thinking hard about the dynamics of relationships, the true meaning of “love” and our commitment to the vows we take before we get married.
Most of the characters in this book where not likable but my favorite character would be Roy snr, a father to a son that was not his biological child, a good husband and a loyal person. If I was to pick my least favorite, it would be Celestial. She was portrayed to be an independent successful black woman which she was to an extent with respect to her career but it doesn’t describe The totality of who and what she represents. She was strong when it was easy and it pleased her and took a weak disposition when it didn’t. I saw her as a privileged and entitled woman who didn’t stay when things went bad. Some people may argue that she continued to care for Roy financially when he was in prison even when she had moved on from the marriage but my response to that is “money isn’t everything”. Yes, I may not know how it feels to be without a husband for five long years, and after a mere one year of marriage where in most cases, is when the marriage has just begun, but Celestial took vows before God to stand with Roy, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, till death do them part. Those vows she took, she broke, without looking back and with who for God’s sake???? The very person who introduced them. This story has confirmed my beliefs on why many people go into relationships and marriage. They do this not necessarily because of love, but because that other person fits a profile they have created for themselves, or that person is available to them at the time, or rich enough or beautiful enough. This is a story will cause you to question our choices, loyalties and commitment in the face of adversity. To think deeply whenever we say ‘I love you’ to “the one” and consider the thousand things that means and entails.
‘Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
This book ended well for me. Most of it wasn’t too far fetched and it seemed fair to all the characters. What can I say? Reality Bites!
I rate this book a 4 stars and I highly recommend it.
P.s. The audio book on Scribed is awesome. I think it made my experience much better than reading a paper version.
Published: February 6th, 2018 by Algonquin books
Purchase @ www.amazon.com/anamericanmarriage ;
The Author: Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is currently an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University.