An American Marriage
By Tayari Jones
Algonquin Books, 9781616208684, 2019, 336pp.
The Short of It:
Not what I expected. Tense, but exhausting.
The Rest of It:
Roy and Celestial are newly married. Both, have promising careers on the verge of success but one night, Roy is falsely accused of rape and they are torn from one another. It doesn’t matter that his alibi is solid, he’s black and the woman accusing him of the crime is not backing down. Roy is sentenced to twelve years for a crime he did not commit. Celestial is left wondering how to navigate this kind of marriage. Is it a marriage? Can she commit to a marriage like this? One where your husband is behind bars for twelve years?
This was a difficult read for me. These characters flirt with virtue and then do the opposite, over and over again. Although I could see their logic and often their justification for their actions, I quickly grew tired of the push and pull.
Additionally, I really had a problem with how Celestial is made out to be a piece of property over and over again. It didn’t fit her personality as she is very strong-willed and independent. Perhaps that’s why it bothered me so much that the author even went there. There is an entire section of the book where she’s referred to as “my woman” and that just rubbed me the wrong way.
Is An American Marriage a good book for a club to discuss? I think there is plenty to discuss. Between the false accusations and imprisonment, what it means to be married, the issues centering around race and class, and the importance of family, a group would have plenty to chew on.
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