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An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

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An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

4/5 (545 Bewertungen)
355 Seiten
6 Stunden
Feb 6, 2018

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Award winner…

Tayari Jones’ explosive bestseller won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. “This is an exquisitely intimate portrait of a marriage shattered by racial injustice. It is a story of love, loss and loyalty, the resilience of the human spirit painted on a big political canvas — that shines a light on today’s America,” said Professor Kate Williams in the Prize’s announcement post.


Written by Scribd Editors

The embodiment of the American Dream, Celestial and Roy are just entering an exciting time in their lives. Roy is a young executive, and Celestial is starting an exciting art career, but they're suddenly ripped apart when Roy is arrested on charges for a crime Celestial knows he didn't commit. When he's sentenced to twelve years, Celestial finds comfort in a childhood friend, Andre, who provides her a solid foundation after Roy is taken from her.

After five years, her love for Roy has dissipated, and when he's suddenly released after his conviction is overturned, Roy expects to return to their old lives just as they were. Separated by forces they could never have anticipated or controlled, Celestial and Roy find themselves the center of a story of hope and pain.

Tayari Jones does an excellent job, bringing to life the fear and pain of Celestial and Roy's life and providing sympathy to both characters. As the two of them do their best to pick up the pieces of their lives after so much turmoil, An American Marriage reveals the heart of its story on reckoning with the past and moving forward.

Feb 6, 2018

Über den Autor

New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including An American Marriage, Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. A winner of numerous literary awards, she is a professor of creative writing at Emory University. 

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An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club) - Tayari Jones


Silver Sparrow

The Untelling

Leaving Atlanta

An American Marriage


Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2019

For my mother’s sister, Alma Faye,

and for Maxine & Marcia, my own

What happens to you doesn’t belong to you, only half concerns you. It’s not yours. Not yours only.





































Reader’s Guide

Preview of Silver Sparrow

About the Author

About Algonquin


Bridge Music


There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t. I’m a proud member of the first category. My wife, Celestial, used to say that I’m a country boy at the core, but I never cared for that designation. For one, I’m not from the country per se. Eloe, Louisiana, is a small town. When you hear country, you think raising crops, baling hay, and milking cows. Never in my life have I picked a single cotton boll, although my daddy did. I have never touched a horse, goat, or pig, nor have I any desire to. Celestial used to laugh, clarifying that she’s not saying I’m a farmer, just country. She is from Atlanta, and there was a case to be made that she is country, too. But let her tell it, she’s a southern woman, not to be confused with a southern belle. For some reason, Georgia peach is all right with her, and it’s all right with me, so there you have it.

Celestial thinks of herself as this cosmopolitan person, and she’s not wrong. However, she sleeps each night in the very house she grew up in. I, on the other hand, departed on the first thing smoking, exactly seventy-one hours after high school graduation. I would have left sooner, but the Trailways didn’t stop through Eloe every day. By the time the mailman brought my mama the cardboard tube containing my diploma, I was all moved into my dorm room at Morehouse College attending a special program for first-generation scholarship types. We were invited to show up two and a half months before the legacies, to get the lay of the land and bone up on the basics. Imagine twenty-three young black men watching Spike Lee’s School Daze and Sidney Poitier’s To Sir with Love on loop, and you either will or will not get the picture. Indoctrination isn’t always a bad thing.

All my life I have been helped by leg-up programs—Head Start when I was five and Upward Bound all the way through. If I ever have kids, they will be able to pedal through life without training wheels, but I like to give credit where it is due.

Atlanta is where I learned the rules and learned them quick. No one ever called me stupid. But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.

I’m not talking bad about Eloe. Obviously there are worse native lands; a big-picture mind can see that. For one, Eloe may be in Louisiana, not a state brimming with opportunity, but it is located in America, and if you’re going to be black and struggling, the United States is probably the best place to do it. However, we were not poor. Let me make that extra-strength clear. My daddy worked too hard at Buck’s Sporting Goods by day plus handymanning in the evenings, and my mother spent too many hours fixing trays at the meat-and-three for me to act like we had neither pot nor window. Let the record show that we had both.

Me, Olive, and Big Roy were a family of three, and we lived in a sturdy brick house on a safe block. I had my own room, and when Big Roy built an extension, I had my own bathroom. When I outgrew my shoes, I never waited for new ones. While I have received financial aid, my parents did their part to send me to college.

Still, the truth is that there was nothing extra. If my childhood were a sandwich, there would be no meat hanging off the bread. We had what we needed and nothing more. And nothing less, my mama would have said, and then wrapped me in one of her lemon-drop hugs.

When I arrived in Atlanta, I was under the impression that I had my whole life ahead of me—endless reams of blank paper. And you know what they say: a Morehouse Man always has a pen. Ten years later, my life was at its sweet spot. When anybody said, Where are you from? I said, The A!—so intimate with the city that I knew her by her nickname. When asked about my family, I talked about Celestial.

We were properly married for a year and a half, and we were happy for that time, at least I was. Maybe we didn’t do happy like other people, but we’re not your garden-variety bourgeois Atlanta Negroes where the husband goes to bed with his laptop under his pillow and the wife dreams about her blue-box jewelry. I was young, hungry, and on the come-up. Celestial was an artist, intense and gorgeous. We were like Love Jones, but grown. What can I say? I always had a weakness for shooting-star women. When you’re with them, you know that you’re deep into something, none of that hi-and-bye stuff. Before Celestial, I dated this other girl, also born and raised in the A. This girl, as proper as you can picture, she pulled a gun on me at an Urban League gala! I’ll never forget that silver .22 with a pink mother-of-pearl handle. She flashed it inside her purse under the table where we were enjoying steak and au gratin potatoes. She said she knew I was cheating on her with some chick from the Black Bar Association. How can I explain this? I was scared, and then I wasn’t. Only an Atlanta girl could be so classy while doing something so hood. It was love-logic, granted, but I wasn’t sure if I should propose or call the police. We broke up before daybreak, and it wasn’t my decision.

After Pistol Girl, I lost my touch with the ladies for a minute. I read the news as same as anyone, and I heard about some supposed black man shortage, but it seemed that the good news had yet to make an impact on my social life. Every woman I took a shine to had someone else waiting in the cut.

A little competition is healthy for all parties involved, but Pistol Girl’s departure got up my skin like chiggers and sent me to Eloe for a few days to talk things over with Big Roy. My father has this alpha-omega way about him, like he was here before you showed up and he would be sitting in his same recliner chair long after you left.

You don’t want no woman that brandished a firearm, son.

I tried to explain that what made it remarkable was the contrast between the streetness of the pistol and the glitter of the evening. Besides: She was playing, Daddy.

Big Roy nodded and sucked the foam from his glass of beer. If that’s how she plays, what’s going to happen when she gets mad?

From the kitchen, as though speaking through a translator, my mother called, Ask him who she is with now. She might be crazy, but she’s not crazy. Nobody would dismiss Little Roy without somebody on the back bench.

Big Roy asked, Your mother wants to know who she is with now. Like we weren’t all speaking English.

Some attorney dude. Not like Perry Mason. Contracts. A paperwork sort of person.

Aren’t you a paperwork person? Big Roy asked.

Totally different. Being a rep, that’s temporary. Besides, paperwork isn’t my destiny. It’s just what I happen to be doing now.

I see, Big Roy said.

My mother was still peanut-gallerying from the kitchen. Tell him that he is always letting these light-skinned girls hurt his feelings. Tell him he needs to remember some of the girls right here in Allen Parish. Tell him to lift somebody up with him.

Big Roy said, Your mother says— before I cut him off.

I heard her and didn’t nobody say that girl was light-skinned.

But of course she was, and my mama has a thing about that.

Now Olive came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a striped dish towel. Don’t get mad. I’m not trying to get in your business.

Nobody can really satisfy their mama when it comes to the ladies. All my buddies tell me that their mothers are steady warning them, If she can’t use your comb, don’t bring her home. Ebony and Jet both swear up and down that all the black men with two nickels to rub together are opting for the swirl. As for me, I’m strictly down with the brown, and my mama has the nerve to fret about which particular shade of sister I was choosing.

But you would think that she would have liked Celestial. The two of them favored so much that they could have been the ones related. They both had that clean pretty, like Thelma from Good Times, my first TV crush. But no, as far as my mama was concerned, Celestial looked right, but she was from a different world—Jasmine in Bernadette’s clothing. Big Roy, on the other hand, was so taken by Celestial that he would have married her if I didn’t. None of this scored any points with Olive.

There is only one thing that will win me any ground with your mother, Celestial once said.

And what might that be?

A baby, she said with a sigh. Whenever I see her, she looks me up and down like I might be holding her grandbabies hostage in my body.

You exaggerate. But the truth was, I knew where my mother was coming from. After a year, I was ready to get this show on the road, creating a new generation with an updated set of rules and regulations.

Not that there was anything wrong with the way either one of us was brought up, but still, the world is changing, so the way you bring up kids had to change, too. Part of my plan was to never one time mention picking cotton. My parents always talked about either real cotton or the idea of it. White people say, It beats digging a ditch; black people say, It beats picking cotton. I’m not going to remind my kids that somebody died in order for me to do everyday things. I don’t want Roy III sitting up in the movie theater trying to watch Star Wars or what have you and be thinking about the fact that sitting down eating some popcorn is a right that cost somebody his life. None of that. Or maybe not much of that. We’ll have to get the recipe right. Now Celestial promises that she will never say that they have to be twice as good to get half as much. Even if it’s true, she said, what kind of thing is that to say to a five-year-old?

She was the perfect balance in a woman, not a button-down corporate type, but she wore her pedigree like the gloss on a patent-leather shoe. In addition, she popped like an artist, without veering into crazy. In other words, there was no pink pistol in her purse, but there was no shortage of passion either. Celestial liked to go her own way and you could tell that from looking at her. She was tall, five nine, flat-footed, taller than her own father. I know that height is the luck of the draw, but it felt like she chose all that altitude. Her hair, big and wild, put her a smidge over my head. Even before you knew she was a genius with needle and thread, you could tell you were dealing with a unique individual. Although some people—and by some people, I mean my mama—couldn’t see it, all that’s what was going to make her an excellent mother.

I have half a mind to ask her if we could name our child—son or daughter—Future.

If it had been up to me, we would be all aboard the baby train on our honeymoon. Picture us laid up in a glass-bottom cabana over the ocean. I didn’t even know they had shit like that, but I pretended to be all about it when Celestial showed me the brochure, telling her it was on my bucket list. There we were, relaxing up over the ocean, enjoying each other. The wedding was more than a day behind us because Bali was twenty-three first-class hours away. For the wedding, Celestial had been done up like a doll-baby version of herself. All that crazy hair was wrangled into a ballerina bun and the makeup made her seem to blush. When I saw her floating down the aisle toward me, her and her daddy both were giggling like this whole thing was only a dress rehearsal. There I was, serious as four heart attacks and a stroke, but then she looked up at me and puckered her pink-paint lips in a little kiss and I got the joke. She was letting me know that all of this—the little girls holding up the train of her gown, my morning jacket, even the ring in my pocket—was just a show. What was real was the dance of light in her eyes and the quick current of our blood. And then I smiled, too.

In Bali, that slick hair was long gone and she was rocking a 1970s Jet magazine fro and wearing nothing but body glitter.

Let’s make a baby.

She laughed. That’s how you want to ask me?

I’m serious.

Not yet, Daddy, she said. Soon, though.

On our paper anniversary, I wrote on a sheet of paper. Soon like now?

She turned it over and wrote back, Soon like yesterday. I went to the doctor and he said all systems are go.

But it was another piece of paper that hemmed us up—my very own business card. We were back home after our anniversary dinner at the Beautiful Restaurant, a half diner, half cafeteria on Cascade Road. Not fancy, but it was where I popped the question. She’d said, Yes, but put that ring away before we get jacked! On our wedding anniversary, we returned, for a feast of short ribs, mac and cheese, and corn pudding. Then we headed home for dessert, two slices of wedding cake that had been sitting in the freezer for 365, waiting to see if we would stick through the year. Not content to leave well enough alone, I opened my wallet to show the photo of her that I kept there. As I pulled the picture from its sleeve, my business card floated free, landing softly beside the slabs of amaretto cake. On the back, in purple ink, was a woman’s first name and phone number, which was bad enough. But Celestial noticed three more digits, which she assumed to be a hotel room number.

I can explain this. The truth was straightforward: I liked the ladies. I enjoyed a little flirtation, what they call frisson. Sometimes I collected phone numbers like I was still in college, but 99.997 percent of the time it ended there. I just liked to know that I still had it. Harmless, right?

Get to explaining, she said.

She slipped it into my pocket.

How did she slip you your own business card? Celestial was mad, and it turned me on a little, like the click on the stove before the flame took.

She asked me for my card. I thought it was innocent.

Celestial stood up and collected the saucers, weighed down with cake, and dropped them in the trash, wedding china be damned. She returned to the table, picked up her flute of pink champagne and slammed the bubbly like a shot of tequila. Then she snatched my glass out of my hand, drank my share, and then tossed the long-stemmed glasses into the garbage, too. As they broke, they rang like bells.

You are so full of shit, she said.

But where am I now? I said. Right here with you. In our home. I lay my head on your pillow every night.

On our fucking anniversary, she said. Now her mad was melting into sad. She sat on her breakfast chair. Why get married if you want to cheat?

I didn’t point out that you had to be married in order to cheat at all. Instead, I told her the truth. I never even called that girl. I sat beside her. I love you. I said it like a magic charm. Happy anniversary.

She let me kiss her, which was a positive sign. I could taste the pink champagne on her lips. We were out of our clothes when she bit me hard on the ear. You are such a liar. Then she stretched across to my nightstand and produced a shiny foil pack. Wrap it up, mister.

I know that there are those out there who would say that our marriage was in trouble. People have a lot of things to say when they don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, up under the covers, and between night and morning. But as a witness to, and even a member of, our relationship, I’m convinced that it was the opposite. It meant something that I could make her mad with just a scrap of paper and she could make me crazy with just a rubber.

Yes, we were a married couple, but we were still young and smitten. One year in and the fire was still burning blue hot.

The thing is this: it’s a challenge being 2.0. On paper, we’re A Different World: Where Are They Now? Whitley and Dwayne all grown up. But Celestial and me are something Hollywood never imagined. She was gifted and I was her manager and muse. It’s not like I lay around in my birthday suit so she could draw me. No, I simply lived my life and she watched. When we were engaged, she won a competition for a glass sculpture she created. From a distance, it looked to be a shooter marble, but when you got up close and looked from the right angle, you could make out the lines of my profile swirled inside. Somebody offered her five thousand dollars for it, but she wouldn’t part with it. This isn’t what happens when a marriage is in danger.

She did for me and I did for her in return. Back in the day, when you worked so your wife didn’t have to, they called that sitting your woman down. It was a goal of Big Roy’s to sit Olive down, but it never quite worked out. In his honor, and maybe for my own, I worked all day so Celestial could stay home making dolls, her primary art medium. I’m into the museum-quality marbles and the delicate line drawings, but the dolls were something that an ordinary person could get behind. My vision was a line of cloth dolls that we were going to sell wholesale. You could display them on a shelf or hug the stuffing out of them. There would still be the high-end custom jobs and art pieces. Those could fetch five figures, easy. But the everyday dolls were going to make her mark, I told her. And you see, I turned out to be right.

I know that all of this is water under the bridge, and not a sweet little creek either. But to be fair, I have to tell this whole story. We were married only a year and some change, but it was a good year. Even she would have to admit that.

A meteor crashed our life on Labor Day weekend when we went to Eloe to visit my parents. We traveled by car because I liked a road trip. Planes, I associated with my job. Back then, I was a rep for a textbook company, specializing in math books, even though my way with numbers ended with my 12 times tables. I was successful at my gig because I knew how to sell things. The week before, I closed a nice adoption at my alma mater, and I was in the running for one at Georgia State. It didn’t make me a mogul, but I was looking forward to a bonus hefty enough to start talking about buying a new house. Nothing was wrong with our current abode, a solid ranch house on a quiet street. It’s just that it was a wedding gift from her parents, her childhood home, deeded over to their only daughter, and only to her. It was like white people do, a leg up, American style. But I kind of wanted to hang my hat on a peg with my own name on it.

This was on my mind but not on my spirit as we drove up I-10 on our way to Eloe. We settled down after our anniversary skirmish and we were back in rhythm with each other. Old-school hip-hop thumped from the stereo of our Honda Accord, a family kind of car with two empty seats in the back.

Six hours in, I clicked on the blinker at exit 163. As we merged onto a two-lane highway, I felt a change in Celestial. Her shoulders rode a little higher, and she nibbled on the ends of her hair.

What’s wrong, I asked, turning down the volume of the greatest hip-hop album in history.

Just nervous.

About what?

You ever have a feeling like maybe you left the stove on?

I returned the volume on the stereo to somewhere between thumping and bumping. Call your boy, Andre, then.

Celestial fumbled with the seatbelt like it was rubbing her neck the wrong way. I always get like this around your parents, self-conscious, you know.

My folks? Olive and Big Roy are the most down-to-earth people in the history of ever. Celestial’s folks, on the other hand, were not what you would call approachable. Her father was a little dude, three apples tall, with this immense Frederick Douglass fro, complete with side part—and to top it off, he is some sort of genius inventor. Her mother worked in education, not as a teacher or a principal but as an assistant superintendent to the whole school system. And did I mention that her dad hit pay dirt about ten or twelve years ago, inventing a compound that prevents orange juice from separating so fast? He sold that sucker to Minute Maid and ever since, they have been splashing around naked in a bathtub full of money. Her mama and daddy—now that’s a hard room. Next to them, Olive and Big Roy are cake. You know my folks love you, I said.

"They love you."

And I love you, so they love you. It’s basic math.

Celestial looked out the window as the skinny pine trees whipped by. I don’t feel good about this, Roy. Let’s go home.

My wife has a flair for the dramatic. Still, there was a little hitch in her words that I can only describe as fear.

What is it?

I don’t know, she said. But let’s go back.

What would I tell my mother? You know she has dinner cooking at full tilt by now.

Blame it on me, Celestial said. Tell her everything’s my fault.

Looking back on it, it’s like watching a horror flick and wondering why the characters are so determined to ignore the danger signs. When a spectral voice says, get out, you should do it. But in real life, you don’t know that you’re in a scary movie. You think your wife is being overly emotional. You quietly hope that it’s because she’s pregnant, because a baby is what you need to lock this thing in and throw away the key.

When we arrived at my parents’ home, Olive was waiting on the front porch. My mother had a fondness for wigs, and this time she was wearing curls the color of peach preserves. I pulled into the yard close up to the bumper of my daddy’s Chrysler, threw the car in park, flung open the door, and bounded up the stairs two at a time to meet my mama halfway with an embrace. She was no bigger than a minute, so I bent my back to sweep her feet up off the porch and she laughed musical like a xylophone.

Little Roy, she said. You’re home.

Once I set her down, I looked over my shoulder and didn’t see anything but dead air, so I trotted back down the stairs, again two at a time. I opened the car door and Celestial extended her arm. I swear, I could hear my mother roll her eyes as I helped my wife out of the Honda.

It’s a triangle, Big Roy explained as the two of us enjoyed a corner of cognac in the den while Olive was busy in the kitchen and Celestial freshened up. I was lucky, he said. When I met your mama, we were both a couple of free agents. My parents were both dead and gone, and hers were way in Oklahoma, pretending like she was never born.

They’ll get it together, I told Big Roy. Celestial takes a minute to get used to people.

Your mama isn’t exactly Doris Day, he said in agreement, and we raised our glasses to the difficult women we were crazy about.

It’ll get better when we have a kid, I said.

True. A grandbaby can soothe a savage beast.

Who you calling a beast? My mother materialized from the kitchen and sat on Big Roy’s lap like a teenager.

From the other doorway Celestial entered, fresh, lovely, and smelling of tangerines. With me nestled in the recliner and my parents love-birding on the couch, there was no place for her to sit, so I tapped my knee. Gamely, she perched on my lap and we seemed to be on an awkward double date circa 1952.

My mother righted herself. Celestial, I hear you’re famous.

Ma’am? she said, and jerked a little to get up off my lap, but I held her fast.

The magazine, she said. Why didn’t you tell us you were making waves in the world?

Celestial looked shy. It’s just the alumnae bulletin.

It’s a magazine, my mother said, picking up the shiny copy from under the coffee table and flipping it to a dog-eared page featuring Celestial holding a cloth doll that represented Josephine Baker. Artists to Watch, announced a bold font.

I sent it, I admitted. What can I say? I’m proud.

Is it true that people pay five thousand dollars for your dolls? Olive pursed her lips and cut her eyes.

Not usually, Celestial said, but I spoke over her.

That’s right, I said. You know I’m her manager. Would I let somebody shortchange my wife?

Five thousand dollars for a baby doll? Olive fanned herself with the magazine, lifting her peach-preserve hair. I guess that’s why God invented white folks.

Big Roy chuckled, and Celestial struggled like a backside beetle to get free from my lap. The picture doesn’t do it justice, she said, sounding like a little girl. The headdress is hand-beaded and—

Five thousand dollars will buy a lot of beads, my mother noted.

Celestial looked at me, and in an attempt to make peace, I said, Mama, don’t hate the player, hate the game. If you have a woman, you recognize when you have said the wrong thing. Somehow she rearranges the ions in the air and you can’t breathe as well.

It’s not a game; it’s art. Celestial’s eyes landed on the framed African-inspired prints on the walls of the living room. I mean real art.

Big Roy, a skilled diplomat, said, Maybe if we could see one in person.

There’s one in the car, I said. I’ll go get it.

The doll, swaddled in a soft blanket, looked like an actual infant. This was one of Celestial’s quirks. For a woman who was, shall we say, apprehensive about motherhood, she was rather protective of these cloth creations. I tried to tell her that she was going to have to adopt a different attitude for when we opened up our storefront. The poupées, as the dolls were called, would sell for a fraction of the price of the art pieces, like the one I was holding. They would have

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545 Bewertungen / 145 Rezensionen
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Kritische Rezensionen

  • Celebrated both by traditional critics and by some high-profile ad-hoc reviewers (cough cough, Barack Obama and Oprah), this stirring story is at once an examination of race and the state of the criminal justice system, and a deeply intimate portrait of two people struggling to keep their love alive as external circumstances drive them apart.

    Scribd Editors
  • Tayari Jones' novel is easily one of the biggest books of 2018 already (it's an Oprah Book Club pick), and now Obama has gotten in on the hype. He wrote in his August Facebook post that it's "a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple."

    Scribd Editors


  • (5/5)
    One of the things I loved about this novel was the POV. Each chapter is told from a specific character's point of view, but in addition to that, there are sections that are letters written from one character to another. It's unique and offered a deeper understanding into their motives and relationships. The story line is real and harsh. Definitely not a light read, but very good.
  • (3/5)
    A downbeat romance? A romantic tragedy? It’s hard to pin this one down. If anything it reminded me of Gone Girl with its twisty plot (and selfish protagonists). All the characters seem to be in the wrong and hard done by all at once - but I guess that’s marriage, eh guys?
  • (5/5)
    An American Marriage offers a variety of marriages that are both common and remarkable at the same time. It is about Celestial and Roy’s story, but also the couple is surrounded by family members with marriage stories of their own. Marriages that end in infidelity, divorce or death; marriages that begin in less-than-ideal circumstances, marriages that offer new beginnings, relationships that look like marriages but for that piece of paper.

    "He used to say, ‘Accident of birth is the number one predictor of happiness.’ Once Daddy took me to the emergency room at Grady, so I could see how poor black folks are treated when they got sick. Gloria was mad when I came home, eight years old, shook to the bone. But he said, ‘I don’t mind living in Cascade Heights, but she needs to know the whole picture.’ Gloria was furious. ‘She is not a sociological test case. She is our daughter.’ Daddy said, ‘Our daughter needs to know things, she needs to know how fortunate she is. When I was her age . . .’ My mother cut him off. ‘Stop it, Franklin. This is how progress works. You have it better than your daddy and I have it better than mine. Don’t treat her like she stole something."
  • (5/5)
    Excellently written love story. Jones captures emotions and the trials and tribulations of love in her novel that left me pondering the depths of thought and experience.
  • (5/5)
    This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018. I wasn’t sure what to expect but in the end it did not disappoint.

    Celestial and Roy are a couple who are dealt a terrible hand. Having only been married a year and a half, Roy is literally torn from their bed and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. It is difficult enough to make a marriage work let alone when one of you is in jail – and wrongfully accused.

    This was a tough read. There are a lot of subjects I’m ignorant on, and mass incarceration is one of them. In the book I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a rape kit, DNA testing, etc. How was Roy so easily committed for something he didn’t do? I still don’t know if that’s the norm, or if that’s just the norm if you’re black and accused. Either way it’s disgusting and disgraceful.

    My heart broke right along with Roy’s and Celestials’ and this book had me crying less than 100 pages in.

    I loved Jones’ writing. It was truthful, and visceral, sharp tongued and didn’t sugar coat anything. I particularly loved reading the letters Roy wrote and received to and from Celestial, and the others in his life. It was a unique and truthful way to communicate to the reader what was going on. They weren’t able to talk face to face every day, and through letters things can get misinterpreted. I liked that that was included.

    I don’t want to give away any spoilers on how it ends. I think it’s important not to know what happens, going into it. I will say the actions of Roy and Celestial are very believable. These are two imperfect humans trying to survive through what was dealt to them. I don’t think you can blame each of them for doing, acting, and saying what they did.

    Although this book has a lot of heartbreak in it, I do think this story is one, ultimately of hope.

    I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
    This review was originally posted on Books For The Living.
  • (3/5)
    An American Marriage has been causing quite a stir lately, but our group could not summon the fervour reflected on-line with this highly acclaimed novel.Most of us could not go past a 5 or 6 out of 10, stating frustration with characters and storyline, and the weak plot seemed to lead nowhere. It seemed everyone struggled with connecting either emotionally or intellectually with the characters.The few positives included easy to read with a real rhythm and voice to it, limited characters to follow and the author seemed to purposely to not play the race/discrimination card (not to its full potential anyway). We discussed whether it was for cultural reasons that we had trouble connecting with the story. Jones wrote her characters in such a way that most of us forgot they were Black Americans throughout the story. Was this her intention? We think so. There are many novels out there that set the whole storyline on racial discrimination and the injustice of such hate, but Jones seemed to want to tell a different story … that of a young marriage and its struggle to manage through separation and turmoil. So we certainly give her points for this.We always hope to learn something from a novel and in this case we believe we have. In trying to bond with Celestial, Roy and Andre, we all found ourselves looking for a way they could make things work. Their situation is far from anything we are likely to experience ourselves, but in reading their story we feel there is more empathy and understanding in our selves than before. And much of this positive feedback comes not so much from the book, but from our discussion. Thank you ladies for another great conversation!
  • (1/5)
    There was not a single believable word that emerged from any of the characters throughout the 300 pages of this soapfest. Worse, though, each of the POV characters narrating the Hallmark Romance plot is pretty much a terrible person. Not one of them is able to generate even the tiniest dribble of empathy for another as they stumble around explaining and re-explaining how tough life has been for them... for them and no one else.

    There are some genuine issues here, fleetingly touched upon, like the unjust conviction and incarceration rates of African American men and the burden of parenthood, but it's all brushed aside as soon as there's an opportunity for more self-pity and overwrought drama. Hopeless inauthentic tosh featuring unlikeable leads who believe that acting only in one's self-interest in any given instance is an admirable life choice..
  • (5/5)
    A really great novel about the complexity of a troubled marriage. It seems that Celestial and Roy will have a happy life but Roy is wrongly thrown in prison for rape. They struggle with this long distance relationship and over time she develops a relationship with his best friend (male) and next door neighbor Andre. After five years Roy gets out of prison and the threesome must somehow go on. This is a very touching novel full of tenderness and hurt. This novel needs to be made into a movie. There will be awards. Great read.
  • (4/5)
    Good book. None of the three main characters are the hero and none the villain but all three are both. I would read more from this author if I cane across it but I wouldn’t search it out.
  • (5/5)
    I wasn't sure what I thought of this book for the first 100 or so pages, but Ms. Jones' skillful storytelling really sucked me in. I got really invested in the characters - particularly in Roy - and the different points of view/perspectives made the story much richer than it would have been if told only from one character's viewpoint. Going to look for her other books - highly recommend!
  • (2/5)
    At times promising, but ultimately frustrating. There is little art or originality to this simplistic storytelling, but the plot itself is brilliant for a large portion. There were multiple opportunities, but particularly in the closing pages to make this novel say something impactful, but the writer chooses a softer, less critical, and less ambiguous direction. Some of the notions about what it is to “be a man” or to “be a woman” are antiquated and almost unbelievable from young and educated characters. The writer too often forces symbolism upon the reader in a clumsy manner. Although I’d summarize this novel as one of missed opportunity and a failure to deliver both in style and substance, the writer shows enough promise that I’ll be keeping an eye out for future work.
  • (4/5)
    a haunting book set in current day in Louisiana & Atlanta. Celestial and Roy are an upwardly mobile just married couple. While staying at a motel near his parents, Roy is accused of raping a woman at the motel. Celestial is unmoored when Roy is convicted. At first she keeps up with visitation and letters, but then the pull of her childhood friend Andre is too strong, especially when Andre has always had a silent tendre for her and makes his move,
  • (4/5)
    This novel has a surprisingly unique premise, and one I didn't anticipate. It is thought-provoking that lives can be altered forever by the misguided accusation of people looking for justice or, in this case, injustice. Celestial and Roy are living in a marriage that has its fair share of challenges, but nothing can prepare them for the nightmare that results from Roy's kind act to a woman who later is certain that he committed a heinous crime. It is difficult to comprehend the racism that still exists in the south. I, too, live in Atlanta, although in a northern suburb, so seeing it on the news and reading about it are a haunting reminder that skin color can determine how people are treated within and outside of the justice system. The story is told from the perspectives of three people who are bound forever in an untenable situation. The characters are well developed, as are their relationships with each other. Our sympathies lie with all of them as they attempt to forge a new normal.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting examination of a budding marriage, one stopped in its tracks when the husband is falsely accused of a terrible crime and incarcerated for five yrs until his lawyer's appeals/efforts can get him released. The young wife, Celestial, her supportive childhood friend Andre (in love with her himself) and her husband Roy all take turns narrating the warp and weave of their earlier lives, their parents, and Celestial's growing realization that a husband absent, is a husband no longer in her heart. This begins the growing conflict as Andre and Celestial finally become a couple, and prepare to help Roy see the truth when he is released and arrives in Atlanta to claim his wife, and his former life. While Roy's angry reaction to his friend and wife's new relationship is expected, the writer's descriptions of the emotional journey each character takes, their interactions with family, esp parents, and how that affects their views and choices is refreshing, tenderhearted without being sappy. Author's prose shifts in tone and vernacular w/each character's voice, but in every chapter it seems, she slips in thoughtful observations - aphorisms about life, family, duty, love - enjoyed this book.
  • (3/5)
    An affluent black woman marries a man who is sent to prison for something he did not do. His twelve-year sentence was reduced to five years. Alas, he came home to early for his wife and her old friend whom she now sees as a wonderful life partner. Except, what to do about Roy, who on Christmas Eve shows up on the doorstep of his wife.This was not as good as some of the author's other books.This was simply a 3 star read. There were too many sub stories, non of which helped the story.
  • (4/5)
    "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Mark 10:9My first fiction read of 2018 is the highly anticipated An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. It is the story of a young marriage tested by the husband's incarceration for a crime he did not commit. It is an exploration of what endures and what holds us together. The novel is told through the voices of the couple Roy and Celeste and Roy's best friend and Celeste's childhood soulmate Andre. Roy and Celeste were married only a year and a half, ready to have a baby. Roy was first generation college, a handsome and charming man on the up-and-up, his whole world ahead of him. Celeste was committed to being an artist when Roy swept her off her feet and into marriage. Roy was glad to "set her down" and supported her art. All their plans were crushed in an instant when Roy was accused of rape, convicted, and imprisoned. In a series of letters we follow their relationship through the early days of separation. Celeste's lawyer uncle works for justice for Roy. Celeste does not divorce Roy or stop depositing money into his account. But she does break off with him.Roy's college friend Andre grew up next door to Celeste and has always loved her. Celeste loved Andre like a brother, but kept him at a safe distance. Between their childhood houses is Old Hickey, a centennial tree that represents what lasts. Several years into Roy's sentence Celeste and Andre finally consummate their love into a solid relationship, each still living in their childhood homes next to each other. Celeste has moved on, but feels the guilt of abandoning a man who has lost everything. These characters are vital and real. And so are the supporting characters, their parents and people who raised them. There are many forms of love, marriage, and families in the story, covering a whole range of human experience. Each reveals what lasts and does not last, the nature of love, and the many ways love is torn asunder.The long, simmering set up peaks when Roy is finally released after five years and returns home to see if he has a marriage. It culminates in a desperate scene of conflict and Roy's realization of who he is and is not, and what has and has not endured.The story is set against the reality of the mass incarceration of black men. I wish that Jones had included more about Roy's trial and prison experience as a black man caught in a justice system stacked against him. It would have helped set up the change in Roy, for I had trouble connecting the dapper ladies man to the violence of his later actions. Still, for readers from a background of white privilege, what is in the book may be enough to open eyes. African Americans already know.What really sunders Roy and Celeste? Was their love too green? Was their love built on sand and not solid ground? Was Celeste to blame, or Andre? Was it society--racism and a justice system--that failed Roy? Or was it the woman who recognized Roy's face and confused him with the rapist in the dark who attacked her? In the end, each finds a place to belong, a love that lasts. And that is all any of us really wants from life. To be one flesh in the arms of love.I received a free book from the publisher through a LibraryThing giveaway.
  • (4/5)
    Just after I downloaded this audiobook it was chosen as the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction winner. Oprah also chose it for her book club. So you can see that it has a lot of interest from some powerful women. Which is interesting because I don't know that Celestial, the woman in the story, comes off as a powerful woman.Roy and Celestial have been married for about a year when they travel to Roy's hometown in Louisiana. Roy has been keeping a secret about his paternity from Celestial (his mother had him as a teenager before she married Roy's step-father, Big Roy) Roy plans to tell Celestial about this fact and for this reason decides not to stay with his parents but check into a motel instead. The revelation of Roy's paternity almost devolves into a fight but Roy calls a time out and goes off to get ice. He meets an older woman who needs help getting back to her room and then he goes back to talk more with Celestial. The time out seems to have cooled down the emotions and Celestial and Roy make love and then fall asleep. In the middle of the night their door is broken down by police who charge Roy with the rape of the older woman he met at the ice machine. He is soon convicted and thrown in prison. Celestial swears to wait for him; she knows he has been wrongfully convicted because he was with her all night. Celestial goes back to her life as an artist in Atlanta. Roy and Celestial's letters to each other form the next part of the book and we see their relationship start to break down. Celestial's best friend and neighbour, Andre, confesses he has always loved her and Celestial realizes she loves Andre as well. When Roy is finally released from jail his life has been altered irrevocably. Is this an indication as to how fragile human relationships are? Should Celestial have waited for Roy? Is Andre (who was a friend of Roy's in college) wrong to declare his love for Celestial? Is Roy blameless in the breakdown of the marriage? All questions that arose in my mind as I listened to this book. My sympathies are more on Roy's side although I can see he has some faults. What I will remember most is how easy it was to convict an innocent man and the fact that he was African-American was a big contributing factor.
  • (5/5)
    First thing is the dust jacket that has an image of a tree. That symbol alone made me want to read the novel,y plus I enjoyed “Silver Sparrow “ so I knew this story wouldn’t be any different. As I started reading the book, somewhere into the second or third chapters, the book made Oprah’s Book Club list and a movie soon to follow was announced.Second, the symbolism of the tree was revealed 30% into the story. The characters where unpredictable, in terms of what they confessed to and their current state of mind, but that is what made the story evolve and gave it its charm. Third, I enjoyed the epistolary(told through letters) writing style. It told a lot within huge segments of time. My favorite character was Mr. Roy Senior. He was a quite, humble but steady and a strong hearted man. I highly recommend reading this book, for it is well written and I also enjoyed the audiobook from my local library.
  • (4/5)
    This story is fiction, but it is a composite of real life, real situations, real social injustice. The characters were real to me; no stretch of imagination involved in their situations or emotions. Well, there was one situation that stretched belief, but it was necessary to the story. This is a soul-baring novel, and well written and worth the time to read or listen to it. I listened to it, and the voices were spot on.
  • (4/5)
    Celestial and Roy, a young, upwardly mobile black couple, are one and a half years into their marriage and working through significant challenges with career ambition, whether and when to have children, and establishing more adult relationships with their parents. While visiting his parents in a small Louisiana town, Roy is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and ultimately sentenced to twelve years in prison. Not surprisingly, this puts considerable strain on their marriage. At first Celestial regularly visits Roy in prison, but over time the disparity between their lives becomes a source of tension, and the couple grows apart. Celestial has become a successful artist, and her platonic relationship with childhood friend Andre has blossomed into something more. When Roy’s conviction is overturned and he is released after just 5 years, all three have to face reality and make important decisions about their futures.I have mixed feelings about this book. I was completely caught up in the story, finishing the book in just a day and a half. The characters’ moral dilemmas were believable. But the characters all lacked a certain complexity, especially Celestial, whose motives and decision-making processes remain a mystery to me. Roy’s character developed the most over the life of the novel, bringing emotional depth to the story and credibility to the ending. That said, this book offers up plenty for discussion, about both mass incarceration and relationships, and should make for an interesting book club meeting.
  • (5/5)
    The flood of accolades for this fine novel are well deserved, and if you read it after you see the movie "If Beale Street Could Talk", you'll note the parallels of innocent African American men sent to prison. This novel is exceptional in its depiction of the couple Celestial and Roy, who tell their story alternating with Celestial's childhood friend Andre. These are all complex people, each so right most of the time and painfully wrong too, and in their longings to escape from and to embrace their childhoods and their loving parents, in their meeting and their parting, in their struggle to maintain their own identities while trying to become half of a whole, they are universal. But the harsh reality is that they are born of formerly enslaved people in a country where ten of the first twelve presidents owned other humans, and where reparations for that horror, that violent history, have never been made. I am hopeful that their story will open the eyes of readers who do not yet understand what it is like to be black in white America, from the minute you wake up and walk out your door every day until your life ends. And where the expectation is, for black boys and men, that you will be "either taken out by six (pallbearers) or taken out by twelve (jurors)."Quotes: "I indulged you since you were a little girl, so you think every day is supposed to be the weekend.""A man who is a father to a daughter is different from one who is a father to a son. One is the left show and the other is the right. They are the same but not interchangeable."
  • (4/5)
    One of the first things to strike me about this novel was how it wasn’t angry. It seemed to go out of its way to not be about anger, rage or frustration; all reflexive responses to what happens to Roy. I don’t know if that was a deliberate choice, or a natural result of this kind of thing being all too much of the usual. A sad testament. The book doesn’t focus on Roy’s arrest, trial or repeated appeals, but instead what the injustice and separation does to him and wife, Celestial. It’s low-key and un-dramatized, but intense. R & C have been apart longer than they’ve been a couple and that’s what takes them apart. It’s that lack of long-present bonding. They’ve only operated as a unit for about 18 months and still remember how to operate individually. Even though Roy’s circumstances have changed more dramatically than Celestial’s, they both need another person to fill the absence of each other.C’s felt more plausible. Of course she’d turn to Andre. He’s her oldest friend. Lives right next door and there’s a history of intimacy if not necessarily romance. Roy’s bulwark is a bit more coincidental, but I understand why Jones chose it. In order to keep the narrative from becoming a prison tale, Roy needed protection and so having his natural father pop up was a plausible way to go even if it was a bit starry-eyed. I liked how Celestial explained the difference between Andre’s experience going to visit Roy and her own. She is judged. She is scorned. She is assumed to be stupid; duped. Just another pathetic black woman going to see her man; staying loyal in the face of so much gone wrong. Andre doesn’t get that at all. His loyalty is brotherhood. Is righteous. For the most part, Roy and Celestial have a good relationship that is frank and honest, romantic and sexy, positive and upward. I didn’t like that R automatically assumed that as soon as the wedding was over, C would become a baby machine. I did like that she resisted even though the eventual abortion she has made sense; who wants to raise a child with the first thing it comes to know is that daddy is in prison?Overall an engrossing novel that doesn’t do anything absolutely new, but creates a unique arrangement of a marriage coming apart.
  • (5/5)
    4.5 StarsI know that this was in the running for a top read in 2018. I planned to get to it earlier, but I just never could work it in. I decided it was finally time to give it a go. I will say I went into this not knowing anything about the story. When it started, it caught me off guard with the storyline as it was not what I was expecting at all. This was such an amazing story following the marriage of Roy and Celestrial. I had no heard much about this and I had no clue that the first third would be made up of letters (I will not spoil why). It still all worked for me though.It is hard to say much, and I think it best that you just go into this knowing it is about a marriage. This story deals with rape, racism, marriage, cheating, and so much more. This made me laugh and it made me cry. I was captivated with their story from the very beginning.Overall, not enough people are talking about this and highly recommend this.
  • (5/5)
    A love story of a couple, a false I prisonment, and human passion. I don’t know if this would have happened like this to a white couple. Lots of opportunity for discussion about white entitlement and racial inequality.
  • (5/5)
    “How did we end up here? My key works, but you won’t let me in.”Celestial and Roy are made for each other, even though their relationship is not without fights. But they always manage to get together again. Some issues are hot topics - their different backgrounds, their families, having a child - so they try to avoid them. But sometimes these things come up nevertheless and one evening, their quarrel escalates. Fifteen minutes should be enough to cool down. But these fifteen minutes will change their lives, their fates and all the dreams they had for their future together. Nothing will be anymore as it was the next morning.Tayari Jones’ novel hits you like a hammer. You cannot read it without getting involved deeply and asking yourself the question: how would I react in their place? What I loved utterly was the author’s way of foreshadowing: telling you that a meteor was to crash their lives or that this was their last happy evening for a long time; this creates an almost unbearable suspense, you absolutely want to know what is going to happen and thus, you surely cannot put down the book.All in all, the story is a quite unique ménage à trois. On the one hand, Celestial and Roy, wed for some months and still somehow at the beginning of their common life. On the other hand, there is Andre who has been a friend of Celestial since their days in kindergarten, who befriended Roy in college and who actually made them acquainted with each other. Long hidden feelings for Celestial can no longer kept buried when she is in need of a shoulder to lie on. Reading the story as it is, you cannot really blame anyone for what they do. It just happens, but it doesn’t make you really happy either. Especially when compared to their parents’ marriages: a deep affection that lasts over decades and that survives even the biggest crises.Apart from this, the novel is also highly critical in several respects: the American legal system, the way blacks are still treated today and have to fight harder than others and also the question of what makes a man a man and a father a father. A lot of food for thought written in a light style which is full of splendid metaphors that I absolutely adored.
  • (3/5)
    This was a beautifully written book and the characters were well developed. However, the characters were almost too real with flaws that kept me from having anyone to root for. The story was very sad about what can happen to a marriage when a man is falsely accused and incarcerated. But the problem for me was the three main characters all made bad choices making their situation even worse. Although the author did a great job of showing their motivations, the problem was Roy went to jail when he and Celestial had only been married for one year. Had he not got to jail, they probably would have gotten divorced. But there is more guilt involved when your husband is in jail. But apparently not enough guilt not to cheat on him. But then the guy was flirting with other women through their first year of marriage and went straight to a woman's bed when he got out of jail so although I wanted him out of jail, I didn't necessary think he was a great husband. I probably liked Andre best of the 3 POV characters. But again, I don't believe in sleeping with a married person and worse, not explaining your actions when called on it by one of your good friends. I did think the book ended about as well as it could have.
  • (4/5)
    African American characters. Married only 1 1/2 years, Roy is jailed for a crime he did not commit. His wife no longer wants to be married after two years of waiting. Roy is released after 5 years and wants to start up with his wife again, but she has a boyfriend now. Satisfying resolution. This book would be quite a book club discussion. Lots of fodder.
  • (5/5)
    This book is just so well written. Her sentences often read like poetry and there are so many that are revelations and insights that made me marvel as I went along. The characters are so well drawn. I felt like I knew them and could understand why they did what they did and felt a deep understanding of them. This story is unlike any I have read before and I am so glad I read it.
  • (5/5)
    A stunning and beautifully told story about a young black married couple who are split apart when the man is falsely accused of rape. What happens to a marriage when one is behind bars and the other is free to live her life outside? Although incredibly painful to read at times, this work was so honest about human feelings and failings, as well as the possibility of second chances. I would recommend it to everyone, but you need to be able to handle the emotional pain. Realizing that in the real world people (especially people of color) are wrongfully incarcerated makes this work less fictional. I took off half a star for the way it raced to the ending, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from reading it.
  • (5/5)
    An unusual and thought-provoking books that is one of my 2018 top books. A young couple faces a dilemma that few would have to face-a wrongful conviction and imprisonment in the early stages of their marriage. Whether or not they will survive it and how is the story of this book. Absolutely a must-read.