Barry Pierce's Reviews > An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
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it was ok
bookshelves: 21st-century, read-in-2018

I decided to pick up An American Marriage because Tayari Jones has a fun instagram. Also in her By The Book in the New York Times she recounts that she once accepted a gig in Dubai just because the flight gave her nineteen uninterrupted hours of reading time. I love that. She seems like such a fun and likeable person. Therefore it really does hurt to write that An American Marriage savagely disappointed me.

The novel concerns a married couple, Roy and Celestial, who live a fairly normal life until Roy is sent to jail for allegedly raping another woman. Whilst in jail, Roy and Celestial try to keep the marriage going as normal but when Celestial experiences surprise success with her doll company everything between our couple begins to buckle and wane.

I’ll begin with what I admired about this novel. I adore Jones’ turn of phrase. She has a very biting and almost sarcastic writing style which complements the plot well. Take this little sentence, which I loved, for example:

‘“Who are these men?” the white cop asked me. His accent was thick and gooey, all Marietta, turn left at the Big Chicken.’

Isn’t that just wonderful? There’s little lines like that strewn throughout the novel like confetti.

The novel is also very well structured. It employs three narrators, each rewarded a perspective, as the plot flows through their voices. Oftentimes I’m quite ‘meh’ about constantly changing perspectives but Jones makes it work flawlessly. She has a real master touch.

However, no matter how much I polish it up, there’s no helping the plot of An American Marriage. Oprah recently chose this novel as her book club choice and, no offence to Oprah (I mean, she did get your aunt to read Anna Karenina) but this novel is such an Oprah Book Club pick.

This novel reeks of Lifetime Original Movie. There are some moments that are just achingly sentimental whilst Jones often seeps into melodrama. The climax of the novel, a scene which I won’t spoil but tree huggers beware, was meant to be this great symbolic event in which every bottled emotion is finally unleashed. And I found myself… howling. Just howling at the utter ridiculousness of it. Talk about forcing a metaphor. Jeez.

Thankfully this novel hasn’t put me off Tayari Jones. I’ve heard wonderful things about all of her other novels and I’m excited to get to them. But as for An American Marriage, I’m glad that Oprah saw something in it that I didn’t. That’s why I’m not Oprah. Even if I do share her devotion to bread.
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Reading Progress

March 23, 2018 – Started Reading
March 24, 2018 – Finished Reading
March 25, 2018 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Hanguin (new)

Hanguin Oh god.. after reading your review I feel very sorry for you having gone through such a grueling task.. i feel like u need a vacation for a couple of days


message 2: by L.M. (new)

L.M. Tuwah Your reviews are always so delightful to read. Unfortunately, I am thrice removed from all that is “Oprah”; 1. I am not her. Sad, but true. 2. I am totally and utterly indifferent when it comes to bread. 3. I have never, ever come across her book club.


Laura Frey (Reading in Bed) Ahahah such a great point about the end. Tree huggers beware indeed. Besides, Heathcliff did the whole bashing-your-head-against-a-tree thing and he did it better.


Maria Completely agree with your take on the book, especially the bit about the climax.


Katie You're an excellent writer! Well said.


Lisa Matthews Totally agree with you. The only thing I could say upon finishing was "No no no no no!"


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