An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

Overview: 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.

Debbie Weiss (06/10/18): This was an interesting book about a young African-American couple, Celestial and Roy, whose lives fall apart when Roy is found guilty of rape. He did not do it; he is innocent. However, he is sent away to prison for 12 years. Much of the book is composed of the letters sent back and forth between these two individuals while Roy is locked away.

The premise of the book is --- what would Celestial do while Roy is gone? Will she be faithful? Even though Roy is released early (after 5 years), he has been gone longer than the time they were actually together as a married couple. The premise is interesting and the reading is easy. The action takes place in Georgia and many local Atlanta spots are mentioned. That was fun to read.
Rating: ***

Deanna Boe (06/06/18): Recently Starbucks took time to “train” their employees on racism. As we all know, racism has raised its ugly head quite strongly in the last few years, although it has never been far below the surface of most biased situations. When I taught U.S. history to Juniors I often gave my upbringing as an example concerning prejudice. I told how I lived in town where everyone was white. What would be a negative for young people dating under those circumstances? When I told them it was religion and how the Protestants were discouraged from dating Catholics and vice versa, my students were shocked. In short, I told them how, unfortunately, mankind has always found a way to show prejudice in some way, shape or form. Regrettably it seems to be more deep-seated today than ever, just more subtle.

How many times in the last few years have we watched on the national news where a black man has been released from prison, after serving far too many years, because it was proved he was innocent of the crime – usually for raping a white woman. She obviously misidentified him. Why? Because he was black and don’t all black men look alike to white women under stressful situations? Although, ironically, in this book it was a black woman who identified the black man incorrectly.

This story is about Roy who has worked his way up the ladder in terms of his life. He went to college, has a great job, and married the woman of his dreams. But, like every marriage there are a few bumps along the way. In this case, Roy and Celestial were having a disagreement while staying in a motel. Roy left to cool off, and in so doing stopped and helped a woman who was having some troubles in her room. Once he returned he and Celestial had a wonderful “make-up” session and fell asleep. Unfortunately, during this period the woman he had stopped to help was being raped and she later identified Roy as the man who had raped her. Celestial knew this wasn’t true, both his and her families knew it wasn’t true, but the woman convinced the jury and off he went to prison for a twelve year sentence. Would Celestial, a beautiful and successful businesswoman, be able to stay faithful to Roy all these years? How long would Roy be in prison and what impact would that have on him as a person?

I am sure for most of us the title “An American Marriage” makes us think of a white couple and very few of us think of a black marriage. But, obviously, black marriages have the same problems that white marriages do but fewer white couples would face the same problem as Roy and Celestial did. This is a well written novel and points out situations few of us have had to contemplate
Rating: ***

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