So, I’ve gone from slowly ploughing through my book club book of the month reads, to completing my second one in the same day! I started An American Marriage by Tayari Jones earlier on this afternoon and I’ve just finished at 00:25. I raced through this book, devouring every single page. It’s not an overly long read, but my oh my is it good. I had to get my review written down now before I forget anything.
Celestial and Roy are young and in love. Married for just a year, they are both making a successful life for themselves; he as a business executive and she is a up and coming artist. However their relationship is torn apart when Roy is sentenced to twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Will they manage to hold on to their new marriage and survive longer apart than they have been together or will life come between them and turn them into two people no longer capable of being together? Celestial has taken comfort in the arms of her childhood friend Andre and Roy has struggled and carries scars from incarceration. When Roy’s appeal is successful after five years in prison, they both need to choose their future path.
I feel like I’ve lived in the world of both Celestial and Roy all evening and my own life has massively taken a back seat. I was drawn into this story in a way a book hasn’t pulled me in in a while. There’s so much ground covered; racism, love, marriage, family, imprisonment. Before reading, I’d have thought no way can you successfully get a reader to engage with all of those themes within circa. 300 pages, but I was proved wrong.
Firstly, the writing is incredible! Tayari Jones has in my opinion created something so clever and special. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective. I’ve read other reviews and the discussion in my book club and some people felt that all/some of the characters sounded the same, but I didn’t get that at all. I felt quite a clear distinction between Roy and Andre; Roy being a little more passionate, emotional and rough round the edges whilst Andre always seemed cool, calm and collected.
Secondly, there was so much left open to interpretation in this book, some of which I didn’t even think about until I scoured the internet after completing it. Roy is sent to prison on a rape charge and at no point in the book is the accusers race mentioned. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised I had just assumed that she was white. Why? Why did I make that assumption! Celestial’s character seemed to change dramatically between the woman we are introduced to at the beginning and the woman we know at the end. Is it because what she’s been forced to go through? Is it a change that she’s made with age? Or is it a change that has naturally happened through sharing her life with a different man? There’s so much more, I could go on forever.
My favourite scene (and it appears to be a favourite with a lot of people) was the scene that took place on the front lawn, towards the end of the book. I think I held my breath through the whole thing. I won’t go into detail as I don’t like to give spoilers, but my word it was tense and emotional and everything I want a book to make me feel.
Initially the ending of this book made me sad. I was firmly routing for one particular character and my immediate feeling was sorrow. After sitting and thinking about it for a while, I don’t think that feeling is warranted. Happiness isn’t always what we want it to be or what we expect. Sometimes everything does just slot into place and work out.
I wasn’t aware that this was an Oprah’s Book Club selection before I started reading, but now I can see how it made the cut. It would seem that Tayari Jones has attracted a lot of mixed reviews and opinions and stirred up a lot in people with this book. I can only conclude that that makes the book a success right?! Whether people love this book or are indifferent, people are talking about it. I read somewhere that Oprah is producing a film adaptation. If this is true, I’ll be waiting impatiently to watch. Such a fantastic book, fantastic characters, fantastic story and fantastic writing!
“I thought of Walter again. “Six or twelve,” he sometimes said when he was depressed, which wasn’t all the time but often enough that I recognized a blue mood when it was settling in. “That’s your fate as a black man. Carried by six or judged by twelve.”
“Is it love, or is it convenience?… She explained that connivence, habit, comfort, obligation- these are all things that wear the same clothing as love sometimes.”
one more for good luck…
“I don’t believe that blood makes a family; kin is the circle you create, hands held tight.”
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones