An American Marriage
By Tayari Jones
Publisher: Algonquin Books
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.
Contemporaries are a real mixed bag for me. I tend to either love them or hate them. And for that reason, I pick them up a little less frequently than other genres. But when I do stumble upon those that manage to win me over, it is generally a very rewarding experience. However, with that said, my relationship with An American Marriage was a complicated one. For that reason, I am favoring brevity for this particular review.
The blurb is very sufficient so I am refraining from a recap.
Initially, I was drawn to An American Marriage with its alternating perspective narrative and promising synopsis. I welcomed the opportunity to explore this challenging story through both sides of the party. I anticipated an emotional journey that would leave me feeling better for having taken it. But it was not long before I found myself disenchanted. And being honest (I always am), I attribute this to my lack of interest in the main characters. Celestial disappointed me with her less than convincing commitment to the relationship, even in the early stages. My relationship with Roy was complicated. He often failed at times to solicit any real emotion from me as reader regardless of his hardships, yet I did want him to persevere.
The writing was fluid and enjoyable but never managed to successfully capture the full sincerity of the situation. This was a story I wanted to weep over. I wanted to feel the heartache of Celestial and Roy’s challenges and that just did not happen. While the narrative was clear and the story unfolded with ease, it simply failed to obtain the complexity and depth I craved from this scenario.
I respect Tayari Jones for tackling such pertinent and powerful themes, but in the end, I desired something more than I received. With protagonists (particularly Celestial) that felt one-dimensional at times and an unwavering pace, I found myself unable to fully appreciate An American Marriage in the sense that I felt I should have, but I was still compelled to see Roy’s story through to the end. I have no doubt this book will find a large audience, unfortunately, I am just not part of it.
*This book includes themes of rape, wrongful conviction, and incarceration.
Serves well with your favorite rooibos blend.
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