Debbie's Reviews > An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
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it was amazing
bookshelves: couple-love-and-hate, 2018-best-reads

One sock officially knocked off!!! (equals 4.5 rounded up up up!)

I look a little funny on my pogo stick (yes, this is a pogo stick kind of book) since I have just one sock on, but I have my reasons, really I do. The reason is that there was a slump for me in the middle of the story, so that one sock just held onto my foot like nobody’s business. But it was a short-lived slump, and the beginning and the end of the book are so insanely powerful, the other sock almost flew off my other foot. Since I can’t ignore the slump—where there was a teensy dash of god and ghosts (my most un-favorite set of “gees”)—I have to bounce around on the pogo stick with just one foot al fresco. Fine by me.

Okay, okay, enough about my stupid socks. No need to talk about feet, for god’s sake. The main point is I’m flying high on my pogo stick because this book is amazing! So much depth and emotion! I just finished and I must write this review immediately so I transfer my excitement to the page while it’s rip-roarin’ hot.

Here is how I felt: hyper-happy, then a yawn (and the threat of a Complaint Board), then hyper-happy on steroids.

Hyper-happy. OMG what a great beginning! My favorite part was a series of intense letters between the married couple, Roy and Celestial. Wow are the letters loaded. There is conflict, misunderstandings, gentle accusations. Each point of view is real and honest and argumentative. This is what I call psychological action. Each of them cornered, they say what they really think. There is blame yet no blame. No sugar coating.

What? I want more letters! Where did they go? They left and took the juice with them. Yep, about halfway through, I started to yawn. This was the beginning of the slump that kept my one sock on, tight, and made me consider dragging out the Complaint Board. Why couldn’t the whole book be in letters? Even though I started out by getting attached to the characters, now I started feeling detached. And damn, I skidded on a patch of God, where it appeared in a whole short chapter, plus at the beginning of the next. Other scenes I didn’t like were a funeral and a visit to a graveyard. I know it’s just me, but I usually don’t like ceremonies—in books or in real life (unless something big and surprising happens). The ghost appears at the graveyard scene, where a dead mom gives advice: be a good man, blah blah blah. I thought that it was sort of clichéd.

Hyper-happy on steroids! Soon after the offending slump, I grabbed my pogo stick again. I wouldn’t think of pulling out the Complaint Board now. Hot damn! This is what I call high drama, and I loved it. It’s not melodramatic and it’s not over-the-top. It’s an incredibly realistic portrayal of marriage, a marriage that had to sustain a five-year separation. There is so much conflict, so much tension between the couple, I was riveted. This author gets into the heads of Roy and Celestial, and what we get is this tremendously insightful psychological story about the strength of love, guilt, expectations, disconnects. The author does an amazing job in making you empathize with Roy and his situation. He is flawed, however, and you don’t always accept his choices or actions—but you still love him.

The dialogue is some of the most realistic I’ve read, and the story is as much about what isn’t uttered as about what is. It’s sharp, edgy, and honest. It has to do with illusions and delusions and hope and loyalty. It raises questions about relationships and morality. We know, for instance, that the reason for the separation, and what happened during that time, is no one’s fault. Feelings develop, feelings change—at least for some. Time changes things whether we like it or not. What is love and can people move on? Should you act on feelings when you know you shouldn’t? Do you stick it out when you really don’t want to? Can hope be powerful enough to get you what you want? It’s so much about the nuances of love and about how being apart can change things majorly.

I don’t want to say anything about the plot, even about the big event at the beginning of the book that changes the course of Celestial’s and Roy’s life. I just love going into things cold, so that everything is a surprise. To me, that’s part of the fun of reading. Oh, I will say that I’ve read a few too many thrillers recently, because at the beginning I thought what was going on was sinister. Ha! No! Far from it! The book shows the severe consequences of social injustice (the cast is African-American) but it is in no way a message book.

I always love it when a character does something you don’t expect. And that’s what is so cool about this book. When Roy returns after five years, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen, and I loved every single surprise in behavior. There was this edge, this fear, although I kept telling myself that nothing bad would actually happen. Or would it? I must say I was so attached to both characters by that time. I felt like I knew them really well, yet they kept acting in ways I wasn’t expecting. Much wringing of my hands, but I was rooting for them both, bigtime. The dilemma they faced seemed to have no possible good resolution. My eyes did not leave the pages for hours. The way the book ends is brilliant.

I must say, too, that the writing is fantastic. There are little bits of wisdom throughout. Here is a sample of her wonderful words:

“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.”

“Somehow she rearranges the ions in the air and you can’t breathe as well.”

“In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.”

“His laughter broke whatever sticky spell bound us to the house, and we were able to leave.”

“It’s like the difference between a raw egg and a scrambled egg. It’s the same thing, but it’s not the same at all.”

“It’s like eating a butterscotch still sealed in the wrapper.”

“Even while she wore his ring, she wasn’t his wife. She was merely a married woman.”

“The secrets blocked my throat like a tumor.”


I just remembered that long ago I read another novel by Jones, called Silver Sparrow. Ann Patchett recommended it, and since I was enamored with Patchett’s State of Wonder, I jumped to read any book she dangled in front of my face. I remember that I liked Silver Sparrow and was super impressed by the writing, but I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. An American Marriage, on the other hand, will stick with me, I’m sure.

I’m still hopping inside, hyper-happy, pretty manic. I was skeptical about reading this book, since it’s an Oprah selection and thus will be a big seller. (Big sellers are often a letdown.) I’m SO glad I didn’t miss this one. The characters are complex, their relationship is messy, and the story is profound. Now let me continue down the road on my pogo stick, the other sock threatening to fly off…
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Reading Progress

January 19, 2018 – Shelved
January 19, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 28, 2018 – Started Reading
February 28, 2018 – Shelved as: couple-love-and-hate
March 9, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-best-reads
March 9, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 77 (77 new)


Cheri Are you enjoying this, Debbie? I'm curious about this one...


Debbie Cheri wrote: "Are you enjoying this, Debbie? I'm curious about this one..."

Really liking it so far. I’m about halfway through. Slowed down a tiny bit but right now it’s a 4.5 I’d say.


Lindsay - Traveling Sister Sounds so good Debbie! Looking forward to your review. :-)


Debbie Lindsay wrote: "Sounds so good Debbie! Looking forward to your review. :-)"

Thanks, Lindsay! It is so good!


message 5: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle I probably won't get to this one anytime soon-- though I wouldn't miss your review for anything-- keep us posted. Happy Reading :)


Debbie Michelle wrote: "I probably won't get to this one anytime soon-- though I wouldn't miss your review for anything-- keep us posted. Happy Reading :)"

Ha, thanks so much, Michelle. The bad part is I’m such a slow reader!


Bianca Stupendous review. I already had this on my TBR, but now I feel like I should make more of an effort to get my hands on it.


Diane S ☔ Awesome review, Debbie. I loved this one too.


Debbie Bianca wrote: "Stupendous review. I already had this on my TBR, but now I feel like I should make more of an effort to get my hands on it."


Thanks, Bianca. I think you’d love this one! Hope you can get to it soon!


Debbie Diane S ☔ wrote: "Awesome review, Debbie. I loved this one too."

Thanks, Diane. I’m still all happy head about it!


message 11: by Julie (new)

Julie Wow! It's in my pile; I'll bump it up!


Debbie Julie wrote: "Wow! It's in my pile; I'll bump it up!"

Yes yes, bump it up!


message 13: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Masterson Phenomenal review, Debbie! I have this one on my list. Your glowing review makes me want to read it soon!


Debbie Jennifer wrote: "Phenomenal review, Debbie! I have this one on my list. Your glowing review makes me want to read it soon!"

Thanks, Jennifer! I hope you find time to read it soon! I’m pretty sure you’ll be a gusher too!


Angela M I guess I have to get to this soon ! Great review , Debbie . Always entertaining!


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Great review, Debbie! Hoping your pogo stick means I will love it, even if I lose a sock too!


Debbie Angela M wrote: "I guess I have to get to this soon ! Great review , Debbie . Always entertaining!"

Thanks, Angela. I really really think you will love this one! I hope you do get to it soon so we can have a gush fest!


Debbie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "Great review, Debbie! Hoping your pogo stick means I will love it, even if I lose a sock too!"

Thanks, Jennifer! It was way more fun losing a sock by reading this book than by having my dryer eat it! I do think you’ll love it, so I hope you have room to squeeze it in soon!


message 19: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen Well, unmatched socks are the latest thing so let them fly! Great review, Debbie. This one on my list and I hope I lose both socks :)


Lindsay - Traveling Sister Oh wow - great review Debbie!!! Hyper-happy sounds wonderful to me! Can’t wait to read this! 💕


Dianne You had me at "The way the book ends is brilliant." SOLD! Terrific review, you crazy pogo stick lady!


Sarah Always love reading your reviews, Debbie! I felt the same about this one, I think it'll stay with me for a long time.


☮Karen Awesome review, Debbie! I've been on the fence about this but now I'm adding it. Thanks!


JanB Debbie, happy to see your glowing review, even if you do still have one sock on, haha. I own this and now look forward even more to reading it soon!


Susanne  Strong Awesome review Debbie! Glad you liked it. :)


Julie Outstanding review, Debbie! I enjoyed this one, too!


Debbie Jen wrote: "Well, unmatched socks are the latest thing so let them fly! Great review, Debbie. This one on my list and I hope I lose both socks :)"

Thanks, Jen. Ha! I didn’t know I was being cool! My guess is you’ll get both socks knocked off!


Debbie Lindsay wrote: "Oh wow - great review Debbie!!! Hyper-happy sounds wonderful to me! Can’t wait to read this! 💕"


Thanks so much, Lindsay! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts—hope you get the chance to read it soon!


Debbie Dianne wrote: "You had me at "The way the book ends is brilliant." SOLD! Terrific review, you crazy pogo stick lady!"

Thanks, Dianne. lol, Crazy Pogo Stick Lady kinda has a ring to it! Guilty as charged! Hope you get to read it soon.


message 30: by Debbie (last edited Mar 10, 2018 11:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Debbie Sarah wrote: "Always love reading your reviews, Debbie! I felt the same about this one, I think it'll stay with me for a long time."

Thanks so much, Sarah. Yes, it’s just an amazing book! I think I’ll remember it for a long while too.


Debbie ☮Karen wrote: "Awesome review, Debbie! I've been on the fence about this but now I'm adding it. Thanks!"

Thanks so much, Karen. Getting off the fence for this one is well worth it!


Debbie JanB wrote: "Debbie, happy to see your glowing review, even if you do still have one sock on, haha. I own this and now look forward even more to reading it soon!"

Thanks, Jan. It’s a little airy on my left tootsies, but that’s okay. Hope you can get to it soon so I can hear what you think.


Debbie Susanne wrote: "Awesome review Debbie! Glad you liked it. :)"

Thanks so much, Susanne!


Debbie Julie wrote: "Outstanding review, Debbie! I enjoyed this one, too!"

Thanks, Julie. Gushers unite!


Karen Fantastic review Debbie! I have this on hold 😊


message 36: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Thanks for this very enjoyable review Debbie - looking forward to reading this...


Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies I totally wasn't going to read this but your review made me think differently.


Debbie Karen wrote: "Fantastic review Debbie! I have this on hold 😊"

Thanks, Karen. Hope you like it! (I think you will!)


Debbie Lisa wrote: "Thanks for this very enjoyable review Debbie - looking forward to reading this..."

Thanks so much, Lisa. Hope you like it!


Debbie Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies wrote: "I totally wasn't going to read this but your review made me think differently."

Thanks, Sarah! Hope you like it as much as I did.

Love your name, btw. Do you go crazy at Girl Scout cookie time? I just bought some samosas—yum.


Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies Believe it or not girl scout cookie 🍪 s are not my weakness. Animal crackers are. Lol. I eat a it bag every day. Seriously 😳😜


Debbie Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies wrote: "Believe it or not girl scout cookie 🍪 s are not my weakness. Animal crackers are. Lol. I eat a it bag every day. Seriously 😳😜"

LMAO!! Well, I was that way with potato sticks, though I can no longer indulge (do they even make them any more??). When I was in college in the early 70s, I would buy a can of potato sticks every day and go home and curl up to watch Perry Mason! Ah, those were the days! I do like animal crackers. I ate a lot when my kids were little. I want some right now.


Cheri Fantabulous review, Debbie, my pre-reading this thoughts are so similar to yours, but I'll hop on out on my own pogo stick to grab a copy. Loved your review!


Debbie Cheri wrote: "Fantabulous review, Debbie, my pre-reading this thoughts are so similar to yours, but I'll hop on out on my own pogo stick to grab a copy. Loved your review!"

Thanks so much, Cheri. Can’t wait to see what you think. I’m betting you’ll love it.


message 45: by Ivonne (new)

Ivonne Rovira Love the pogo-stick and sock review!


Debbie Ivonne wrote: "Love the pogo-stick and sock review!"

Ha! Thanks, Ivonne. My tootsies on my left foot are cold, but it’s worth it.


message 47: by Dem (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dem Have this coming up next and glad to hear you loved it. Am always reluctant to read Oprah 's book club choices As they normally don't work out well for me but so many loving this one. Great review.


Debbie Dem wrote: "Have this coming up next and glad to hear you loved it. Am always reluctant to read Oprah 's book club choices As they normally don't work out well for me but so many loving this one. Great review."

Thanks so much, Dem. This one just felt right to me. Hope you like it!


message 49: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz I just got this from the library and will be reading it shortly. Thanks for the warning about the slump.


message 50: by Arah-Lynda (new)

Arah-Lynda Hold onto your socks folks. Great review Debbie.


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