Monday, 18 June 2018

Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

Book: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Pages: 320

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Read On: Kindle

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: 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.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was wonderful. The writer really manages to transport you inside this very personal situation, takes inside this marriage and it's challenged and the many upheavals thrown it's way. This was such a powerful and moving read and somehow it even managed to keep me on the edge of my skin seat wondering what would happen next.

2. Marriage is hard and don't people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest? What does it take to make a marriage work? To sustain a relationship? This book raises these very questions and will make you pause and think over it. You find yourself in the shoes of these characters and wonder how you'd react under the same circumstances? I know I did. At several points in the book, I found myself putting the book down and thinking about the actions and reactions of our main characters.

3. This is one of those rare books where the author has done a fantastic job of etching out brilliant and life like characters who feel and seem real and jump out of the pages and stick with you. The three main characters- Celestial, Ray and Andre are all well crafted and even all the secondary characters are done justice.

4. As much as this is a book about marriage, it is also a book about race and the justice system in America. It breaks your heart to see the very real tragedy of a black man being falsely accused in a heinous crime and being convicted of it too. To see an innocent life changing forever and altering the course of life from one horrific crime. It is truly scary.

5. A section of this book is dedicated to letters exchanged between Celestial and Roy, during the early years of Roy's incarceration, and this was hands down my favourite part of the book. It really showed us this marriage up close and gave us a look inside the mind and hearts of these characters. Plus, I really like letters in books.

6. I found this book incredibly real and believable. Partly, because injustice like this happens all the time. But also these characters and their reactions to this impossible situation were all entirely believable to me.

7. I went into this book pretty blind, knowing only the bare minimum and of course, having heard some great things about it. So as things started to unravel I was in for a surprise at every turn and I enjoyed it so much more, not knowing what to expect.

8. I really loved Celestial. I think she is a wonderful woman and I rooted for her from the very beginning. She isn't perfect or an ideal woman or wife but she is real and she is trying so hard to make the best of this impossible situation. Even when she makes some tough decisions, I was rooting for her and supporting her. I didn't for a moment think she was selfish for focussing on her career and making a name for herself, and in some ways move on with her life. Life goes on, even when something terrible happens, life goes on. It must be inordinately hard to make a marriage work when your husband of a little over a year is behind I felt Roy was being a little petty for wanting her to share the truth about an incarcerated husband when she became slightly famous. And I completely understood her need to keep her personal and professional life separate.

9. Roy is an incredibly nuanced and layered character. I can't and honestly don't even want to imagine what he went through. To be wrongly accused and eventually convicted of a horrible crime and ending up in prison when your whole life is in front of you is beyond nightmarish. I felt bad for not liking him. But out of these three main characters, he was the one I liked least. I guess, I couldn't look past his casual cheating mentioned in the very beginning of the book, cheating and flirting in the very first year of his marriage.! Just no. Once that distaste set in, I found it hard to look past it. And as the book progressed I found him a little entitled. A little too entitled. I get it prison must be hard and impossible and you think everyone on the outside must turn their lives upside down to get you out. But it is selfish to grudge your wife her hard-earned success and fame. To expect her to put her life on hold, for 12 years! I just found him a little off putting.

10. Andre, our third lead was in an interesting position. A life-long love and it coming to fruition during a tumultuous time in our love's life. I don't envy his position and the guilt he carries during a time when he should be happiest. I think Celestial and him make a good pair and I was rooting for them.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Roy's family while wonderful and loving and supportive to their son, were kinda shitty to Celestial and Andre and I just get myself to like them. His mother slapping Celestial was just incredibly off-putting!

2. I found it a little convenient that Roy met his long, lost biological father in prison.

Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.

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