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Amazon synopsis: “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.
This stirring love story is a profoundly 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 deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward–with hope and pain–into the future.”
Length and medium: 9 hours, audiobook
Published by and date: Algonquin Books on February 6, 2018
I have never read an Oprah book cub pick, nonetheless, I’ve always been curious. Funny enough, I was on Amazon trying to find new releases and, at the same time, I found this book on the front page of Hoopla for audiobooks. I like to call these moments destiny moments. When things line up in my life like a perfect coincidence, but my name is Destiny and I’m forever trying to find puns for my name.
I went into this book, not even reading the synopsis (as I do with most books, it’s amazing I don’t find more that I hate). As soon as the audiobook began, I was intrigued. Here it is, this book titled An American Marriage, and it wasn’t about white people. I’ll just admit now that my usual default race for book characters is white. I’m black myself, but it always seemed that all the books I was meant to read for school were about white characters.
Generally, I stay away from audiobooks. I enjoy seeing the words, whether on paper or on my phone. I like to reread powerful quotes and be able to flip back or highlight parts that I enjoyed. But the readers really brought this book to life. I felt everything.
I felt the love, the pain, the longing, the suffering, the anger, and the helplessness. This novel touched on something so beautifully intimate, when I finished I just wanted to go through it again.
Celestial and Roy bare their hearts to each other the first few years of his incarceration through letters. There is something so intimate and warm about letter writing. I understand it’s an ancient art form now that we have phones and emails and texts and a ton of other ways to communicate long distance but letters will always be more powerful than any of those forms of communication. It’s a chance to say what you want without being interrupted. It’s pen to paper and there isn’t an uncertainty if it’s too long to read or if they’ll receive it in time. It’s a slow form of communication that seems to only require truth and that is exactly what Roy and Celestial share in their correspondence.
Celestial seems to move on with her life, though. She finds it harder and harder to see Roy and starts to drift away as he stays stuck in place. I like to think this part of the book emphasizes the importance of growing together in a relationship. How difficult it is to maintain a marriage when one person lives in the past and the other is changing as they move forward. It is heartbreaking.
Then Andre, comfortable sitting on the sidelines of Celestial’s life for most of their shared existence finally steps up and it is… laughable and painful at the same time. As someone that understood Celestial’s issue but sympathized strongly with Roy, I found Andre to be obnoxious. Here he’s been best friend for years, decades even, and now that Roy is in prison and Celestial is struggling with protecting her marriage while continuing the march forward, he decides he’s waited long enough?
And I loved the role the parents played in their lives. it shows that you never get too old to listen to your parents and you never really stop trying to please them. You want to do what’s right for you but you also want your parents to agree. You feel like they’ve made it this far in life and seem to do well, if they believe in it then it can’t be that bad of an idea.
In all, I loved this book and it melted my soul. Once the recording ended, I sat still on my bed, unsure of how to feel. Happy but sad. Comfortable but awkward. I think it’s a reminder that not everything is going to be just right or perfect but in the end, we’ll all find our way to a kind of happiness we can live with.
If you’d like to get this book, click here.
If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Tayari Jones has really broken my heart with this one and I’m definitely interested in reading some of her other books. She has a lot of events planned but I’m hoping to catch her in Los Angeles in April.