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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – Book Review

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Goodreads blurb: 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.

“I know you’re innocent, there is not one doubt in my mind, but I also know that you’re not here.” -Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

Going into this book, all I knew was that a newlywed man is wrongly accused of a crime and sent to prison. While he’s away, his wife falls in love with a mutual friend. From this, I gathered there will be politics, romance, and a dramatic love triangle. Unfortunately for me, all of these seemed to fall a little short.

I appreciate what American Marriage represents and respect the importance of the story it tells. There is research to show the staggering difference in wrongful convictions for white men vs black men. I salute Tayari Jones for writing about these difficult truths. However, it felt like there was just so much more that this novel could have been. An innocent black man is sent to prison for 12 YEARS for a crime he didn’t commit. This feels like a huge part of the story-line for the characters and yet, it was skimmed over with a series of letters taking place over 5 years. There were zero details of his trial and very sparse details of his time in prison. I wanted that time period to be a main focus, after all it is the crux of the plot. I wanted those years described, how it impacted the MC and the way he views the world, how it changed him and altered his life’s trajectory. The opportunity for character development was there for the taking, it was disappointing to have it unexplored. At the same time, I can see how different this novel would have been had the author explored more of the injustice and less of the trauma for the family and other characters. That’s a deep hole to go down and the story of the aftermath provides plenty of drama in itself.

I liked how Jones made me question how I would respond to being in the situation presented in this book. You always want to believe that you are strong and that your marriage can withstand anything life throws at you, but part of marriage is growing together as individuals AND a pair. When half of the equation is removed, how can you keep that going? My heart broke for the married couple so major props to the author for evoking emotions.

In the end, it was my need to see how the MC’s resolved this mess that kept me pushing through to the finish. I’m glad that the ending wasn’t SO cliche so overall I would give this one 3 stars. There are RAVE REVIEWS all over the internet for this book. It was a Book of the Month Club pick, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, AND a Belletrist book pick. Clearly, I’m in the minority with my opinions so I definitely think everyone should read this book. Get yours here!

Happy Reading!

Taylor

 

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