Book Review – An American Marriage

It took me awhile to be able to pinpoint what I wanted to say about this book. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was recommended to me by a friend in my book club. There was a long waiting list at the library for this one, probably due to the fact that the book was selected as part of Oprah’s Book Club. It was worth the wait though.

When I did some digging online about the book after I had finished reading it, I found the word I wanted to use to describe this book. That word is intimate. A large part of this book is told using letters written between a husband and wife…and oh, those letters are captivating.  So much so, that I read that section twice! I’m not sure if it is because we live in a world where the art of writing soulful letters like that has been lost or because the author was so talented and building so much of the characters into those letters. Either way, they were one of the best parts of the book.

I guess I should back up for a minute and share some more details about what the book is about. Here’s is the book description from the author’s website:

“Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when 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.

This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future.”

The characters for Celestial and Roy were so well developed. I found myself racing through parts of this book as I was desperate to get to the end to see how it would turn out. It’s not even that I wanted Celestial and Roy to be together in the end, I just wanted to know how they made it through Roy’s return, what those five years did to their relationship, and to their individual abilities to cope with such a defining event in their lives.

Am still thinking about these characters…honestly, what would you do in their shoes?



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