Book Review- An American Marriage

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In this book review, I will be discussing An American Marriage written by Tayari Jones. The novel is 306 pages in length with one front to back page in the back for acknowledgments. I thought I’d be slick and start writing this review before I had even finished reading the novel. I thought I had a pretty straight understanding of how I felt about it and that waiting until I was finished was just wasting more time that I didn’t have.

For anyone that reads a lot of my posts, which I’m sure there aren’t any followers like that on my work, someone may have noticed an absence of work presented by me. If you didn’t notice, don’t worry, as time went on, I realized no one noticed. Yet here I sit offering an explanation to an audience that doesn’t exist, nor do they care why there was an absence, to begin with. This novel I’m about to review is the reason for my absence. I didn’t like the beginning so it made the novel hard to read for me. Since I lacked the motivation to finish this, I refused to start a new story until this one was finished. Until I finish reading a book or novel, I can’t write a review on it, and until the review is finished, I have no work to publish online for any readers that may be interested. As you can see, I put myself in a pickle and set up sails for failure.

Finally, after a month or a few months, I have finally finished reading this novel. I don’t know if it’s the official changing of seasons, or if the novel got better towards the ending, or even if it was a shifting in life itself, but this book truly opened itself to me and showed me something I had been missing all along. Understanding. You see while reading this novel from the start, I couldn’t understand. I don’t know if I chose to be ignorant or if the proper time to read this is cuddled under a blanket, in the cold of fall, dead in the middle of the night. It was as if “perspective” was put into place when the right environment was set for me. And just like that, this book finally opened up to me and showed me what I was missing all along.

At first, I hated this book with a passion. I wanted so badly to put it down, never finish it and discard it as unimportant. With each page and each paragraph I pushed forward until tonight, when feeling sick, I stayed home from work, knowing that I need to keep the same sleep schedule I’d been on for a few months now, I used this book as a way to attempt to keep me awake through the night. (I’m on third shift at work.) The previous times I had tried to use this book to keep me awake through the night, it failed and would put me right to sleep. That’s when I got the slick idea of starting this review online before I even finished the book yet. I had to delete everything I previously wrote because once I finished this novel I realized how wrong I was, and how wrong those previously written words were.

In this story, you meet Roy, Celestial, and Andre along with their families and backstories. You hear about their journey and what they all go through together and apart. Without giving away too many details they share a journey most people can truly relate to if they pay attention to the right details and ignore those details that don’t matter. Such as race. I spent the first half of this book being upset that race was such an important detail to the author. I didn’t see that it mattered, I still don’t see that it mattered. It’s one of those details you can leave out, your audience will assume it as true once you give room for other details later, and it becomes something that is mentioned without ever being mentioned. But the author made a strong point of consistently mentioning race in this novel. Still, a detail I feel that was unnecessary, to be frank. Now I see though, because of that one detail I was letting all the other details the author was hinting at go unnoticed. Until the end of the book. Until tonight.

Maybe it was sleep deprivation, maybe it’s because I feel cozy as I sit here and relax while trying to feel better. I’m not sure what changed but I went from hating this book thinking it was a huge waste of my time, to think this was a deep book that I’m so very glad I didn’t forever give up on.

Roy goes to jail for a crime he didn’t commit while being freshly married to Celestial. They both know he is innocent, everyone who knows HIM knows he is innocent, but the white woman who claimed he was a rapist, the cops, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jury, all made him into a guilty man. He was five years into his sentence before he got released from jail. I’m telling you that detail because how good would the book truly end up being if he was never released from jail? This isn’t a prison story, it’s a tragic love triangle meets true life story. This story is a fake, made up story, about how the real world works. It’s about real raw emotion like love, pain, death, marriage, divorce, misery, sorrow, and a little justice. A real story is hidden behind the name Fictional. Beautiful if you can get over details that may not matter even though they are stressed for a while throughout the novel.

Andre is the man who steps in while Roy is gone. You must choose for yourself what you’d do if you think Andre and Celestial are right or wrong if you think Roy’s reaction when he returned home was right or wrong. And then the novel will end the same way regardless of what you think. The novel will end right there when you are the point of heightened feelings and emotions with a solid ending that says, hey, this is what happened, that’s life folks. And I’m not even mad about that. It’s life. Life goes one way for a while, then it changes, and then it changes backward but not always for the worse. You find yourself thinking, okay, this is life, this is, in fact, normal.

I hated this novel until the middle to end section where you read more from Andre’s perspective. I love the way that was written more than Roy or Celestial’s perspective. Reading more of Andre’s side pushed me to continue reading the story. And then after that spot, I wanted to know how it all ended. Would true love win, did I know what true love was? Is true love real life or is it a fantasy that we have all made up in our heads? Our own version of love that we believe is true even if in reality we are wrong…

I felt bad for so long just for hating this book. How could I, a writer, hate a book that someone else spent so much time and energy on? How did I have the right to be so negative on a published author when I’m no one myself. Now….now I feel grateful that she has opened my eyes to lessons I would have never learned. We all live a different walk of life. You can tell this much by listening to the types of lessons we learn and hearing someone justify that lesson. Don’t touch a fire, it’s hot, it will burn you- type lesson vs. Sometimes love means losing what you feel in your bones you want most in this life because it’s not “right” type of lesson. Every person on Earth is given life lessons they are forced to learn, we have no idea what our own personal lessons will be until we are learning them the hard way saying to ourselves, “Wow, this was unexpected.”

Tonight, I learned that even as open as I am to how little I know in this world, there is so much more beyond what I know I don’t know. I will never be black, I will never have been raised in a black community, or surrounded by black families. I am not of any other race or culture than who and what I am. My life lessons are different even if they are the same, and that’s why we both exist, as different and as beautiful as we are in our own ways. You are here to share your life and your experience with me if you choose, I am here to share my life and my experience with you if I choose. Together, we understand the world a little better, one piece at a time, one lesson, one life, at a time.

Please take a moment to read the book you can’t make it through. You may not find the same lessons I found. You may not experience the same joy and happiness, or the same peace and contentment that I found tonight. But then again, you might. Thank you, Tayari Jones, for writing this Novel. Thank you for the lessons that were hiding in the end. The heartbreak, the pain, and the love that was deeply woven into it. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to something I thought I already saw before. You showed me I was wrong. And I want to Thank You for that.

“What happens to you doesn’t belong to you, only half concerns you. It’s not yours. Not yours only.”

-Claudia Rankine

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