MC's Reviews > An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
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it was ok

I’m sure somewhere in the bowels of Instagram headquarters, there’s a room where this book is enshrined on a golden altar with fresh flowers and full-time staffers who are solely responsible for printing and displaying all the praise and comments about this book from #Bookstagram.

At best, it’s a testament to the beauty of subjective opinions. At worst, it’s the most over-rated book I’ve ever read. Ever.

By now you must know, the book is about a modern-day love triangle between a husband, wife and her childhood friend. Very real, very ugly circumstances unfairly pry the newly-weds apart at a time when apparently they can’t afford any speed-bumps in their relationship, let alone a wrongful conviction.

From the start, it’s quite clear that Roy and Celestial’s marriage is doomed. Not like in a star-crossed way but in the they-have-nothing-in-common way. As if reading my mind, Roy tut-tuts the naysayers who judge marriages from the outside looking in. He insists, only he and Celestial can ever really know their marriage. But, like, it’s obvious. Roy has a huge problem with monogamy that he writes off as harmless. And, he has some pretty classic male chauvinist views on women. He bristles at Celestial’s success while he’s incarcerated because he thinks she stole his business idea. Which, as a character flaw, is fine and realistic and believable. But, take for instance, this moment when he’s about to sleep with Davina immediately after being released from prison:

“Sometimes the only thing that can cure a man is the inside of a woman, the right woman who does things the right way.”


If you want me to sympathize with Roy, maybe make him less gross? Or, demonstrate he’s emotionally growing and learning in any capacity? But he never does.

His wife, Celestial stews with deep, painful secrets that she can’t bring to share with Roy until its too late (and don’t even get me started on the doll thing – I’m no psychiatrist but maybe creating life-like baby dolls that look like your husband isn’t the best coping mechanism for abortion. Also. WHAT?) Children! They decide, adding children to this recipe will surely lead to happiness. *CUE SUBMARINE DIVE ALARMS*

Enter Andre, a textbook white knight “nice guy” who practically preys on Celestial while Roy is incarcerated. Quite frankly, this book doesn’t even need an Andre when Roy and Celestial’s circumstances provide plenty of fodder for exploration and contemplation. So, his presence feels unnecessary and gratuitously dramatic. But sure, fine, let’s throw in a lawn fight.

This is where I’m at a loss about the book’s overall thesis or theme. There’s not a single redeeming quality or self-realization about any of these characters and therefore, I have zero interest in the outcome of their love lives. They’re selfish and spiteful, even before Roy was wrongfully convicted. So when the two inevitably uncouple my reaction is an eye-rolling NO SHIT. Mercifully, the book reads rather quickly since the first 40ish pages are written in epistolary fashion and the other chapters are short and perfunctory. And, honestly, I’d read Tayari Jones again – she writes well and her characters were believable enough to hate. But, by the end, I was relieved to see these people go on their merry way and I really didn’t give a damn who with or why. To which, I say with all due respect: what.was.the.point.of.this?

“An American Marriage” claims to be an exploration of a ruined life after the machine of a broken criminal justice system indiscriminately and disproportionately preys on young, black men. But, holy shit, that’s not what I read. Instead, it focuses on the all out lawn-fight histrionics of three people who seem to have never been in a shitty relationship before. Somehow, beyond all reason, Roy’s wrongful conviction and subsequent five years in prison plays second fiddle to their drama.

THANKS OBAMA.
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Reading Progress

July 2, 2018 – Shelved
July 2, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 21, 2019 – Started Reading
February 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Booker (new) - added it

Booker interesting......I started it and didn't get very far.....


message 2: by MC (new) - rated it 2 stars

MC Booker wrote: "interesting......I started it and didn't get very far....."

Just wasn't my thing. I had multiple problems with the characters and the style, at least it was a quick read.


Jennifer Did you see it was longlisted for the Women's Prize? The thing is, I don't hate it for the prize. I do hate one of the other books for it, though.


message 4: by MC (new) - rated it 2 stars

MC Jennifer wrote: "Did you see it was longlisted for the Women's Prize? The thing is, I don't hate it for the prize. I do hate one of the other books for it, though." Yeah [insert eye roll here]. It's certainly not badly written, I'd read another book by Tayari Jones. So, I guess I get it. And I haven't read enough on the longlist. The only other book I read is The Pisces and My Sister the Serial Killer. What's the other book? :D


Jennifer MC wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "Did you see it was longlisted for the Women's Prize? The thing is, I don't hate it for the prize. I do hate one of the other books for it, though." Yeah [insert eye roll here]. It'..."

Number One Chinese Restaurant... I just don't understand. I thought it was mediocre at best.


Mike Great review, I smiled while reading it. Strong writing, characters that seemed authentic and a plausible plot made this one the better books I read in 2018, but I can totally see where it could have the opposite effect.


message 7: by MC (new) - rated it 2 stars

MC Mike wrote: "Great review, I smiled while reading it. Strong writing, characters that seemed authentic and a plausible plot made this one the better books I read in 2018, but I can totally see where it could ha..."
Fair enough!


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