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An American Marriage: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club 2018 Selection) Hardcover – February 6, 2018
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From the Publisher
More Praise for An American Marriage
|SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones||THE LEAVERS by Lisa Ko||PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie|
|More Essential Reading from Algonquin||Bestselling Author Of An American Marriage “Impossible to put down.” —Los Angeles Times||National Book Award Finalist “Courageous, sensitive, and perfectly of this moment.” —Barbara Kingsolver||Bestselling Author Of Americanah “Prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes.” —The Boston Globe|
Winner of the 2019 Aspen Words Literary Prize
Shortlisted for the 2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award
“One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon . . . An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.” —Barack Obama
“Tayari Jones’s wise and compassionate new novel, An American Marriage . . . is a clear vision of the quiet devastation of a family. It is beautifully written, with many allusions to black music and culture — including the everyday poetry of the African-American community that begs to be heard.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Powerful . . . The story . . . is both sweeping and intimate—at once an unsparing exploration of what it means to be black in America and a remarkably lifelike portrait of a marriage.”
—The New Yorker
“Compelling . . . spun with tender patience by Jones, who cradles each of these characters in a story that pulls our sympathies in different directions. She never ignores their flaws, their perfectly human tendency toward self-justification, but she also captures their longing to be kind, to be just, to somehow behave well despite the contradictory desires of the heart.”
—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Tayari Jones is a bard of the modern South, a writer whose skill at weaving stories is matched only by her compassion for her characters. While An American Marriage confronts thorny issues around race and the criminal justice system it is, at heart, a love story. It’s also a meditation on the creation of art, the meaning of family and the conflict between duty and desire. Jones has crafted a complex, layered story that’s both intimate and broad, a literary page-turner that’s impossible to put down.”
—The Los Angeles Times
“This moment, right here in February 2018, feels like exactly the right time for Tayari Jones to be writing — and for us to be reading Tayari Jones. In the years since her debut, she has been getting better, and . . . added heft and substance to the rich and necessary stories she weaves.”
“Brilliant, timely . . . heartbreaking . . . With spare and shimmering prose that can strike with the shock of a shiv, Jones captures the life-altering losses Roy and Celestial endure in this unforgettable American marriage.”
“A tense and timely love story. Told in letters and from alternating perspectives, packed with brave questions about race and class, An American Marriage is the perfect book-club book—one the whole group will finish and discuss with conviction.”
—People (Book of the Week)
“A stunning polyphonic novel . . . An American Marriage explores the effects of outside forces beyond its characters’ control – racism and mass incarceration – alongside the more personal questions like whether or not to have children, how to interact with in-laws, how to reconcile differences in background and upbringing, and finally, how to negotiate a marriage when love, on its own, is no longer enough.”
“An American Marriage is that rare treasure, a novel that pulls you under like a fever dream, a novel whose pages you start to ration midway through, a novel you miss like a lover the minute you kiss its final page goodbye. An American Marriage is a gripping, masterfully crafted message in a bottle, at once a dispatch from the past and a foreshadowing of the future, bringing exquisite reading pleasure and painful, crucial news.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“A fascinating, beautifully written story about love, the U.S. prison system, and family.”
"Novelist Jones writes brilliantly about expectations and loss and racial injustice, and how love must evolve when our best laid plans go awry."
"Tayari Jones provides an essential contemporary portrait of a marriage in this searing novel. An American Marriage gorgeously evokes the New South as it explores mass incarceration on a personal level."
“Jones, who gains in skill with each book, has made Atlanta her fictional turf, and conjuring a skein of complex relationships her trademark. She writes in folksy, assured sentences; the reading is almost effortless . . . An American Marriage swings the reader’s sympathies widely, centrifugally, as if on a merry-go-round. The men are believable. The women are recognizable, familiar as a favorite sweater. The details are pleasurable, down to the Huey Newton chairs on Roy’s parents’ front porch.”
“Quietly powerful . . . [Jones’s] writing illuminates the bits and pieces of a marriage: those almost imperceptible moments that make it, break it, and forcefully tear it apart.”
"Powerful . . . Astonishing . . . Through the accumulation of small details, Jones paints a portrait of a nation still deeply divided along lines of race and class."
—J. Courtney Sullivan, The Boston Globe
“This beautiful, sad novel is about so many big things — love, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak, healing, family, racism, endurance and transcendence. But all of that is secondary to the story at its core . . . This is a complex novel that goes well beyond the plot elements of infidelity and racism to explore the intricacies of family and romantic relationships in modern America.”
“This utterly gripping novel from Tayari Jones explores marriage in an intimate and realistic way, making it an engaging read for both married and single audiences alike.This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control.”
“Tayari Jones has emerged as one of the most important voices of her generation.”
“In this unforgettable novel, Tayari Jones tackles hard questions about pride, betrayal, and our capacity to forgive.”
“This is a novel that unabashedly plays with your senses of right and not-quite-right. It also plays with your emotions, if you’ve ever been in love — so have a handful of tissues nearby. An American Marriage could bring you to your knees.”
—The Philadelphia Tribune
“Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage is at its beating heart a love triangle between three 30-something black professionals in contemporary Atlanta. Calling it a triangle, however, diminishes its complexity and nuance; this is a book whose characters will whisper in your head long after you’ve put it down.”
—The Seattle Times
“This novel is peopled by vividly realized, individual characters and driven by interpersonal drama, but it is also very much about being black in contemporary America. This is, at its heart, a love story, but a love story warped by racial injustice. And, in it, Jones suggests that racial injustice haunts the African-American story. Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Layered like Pearl Cleage’s What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, this title will appeal to all readers of contemporary fiction.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
"An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future."
“The great Tayari Jones published her masterly opus An American Marriage, and it is everything you want to read in a novel right now.”
“Suspenseful and compelling. An American Marriage delivers on all fronts, raising questions both intimate and epic about the intersections of race and class, the burdens and joys of shared history, and what it means to commit to a future together.”
“ Nuanced and evocative . . . An American Marriage is a compelling exploration of the thorny conflicts that drive us apart and bind us, the distorting weight of racism, and how commitment looks across time – and generations.”
" Breathtaking . . . Jones is a master with words and An American Marriage is the wordsmith at the top of her game."
" Heart-wrenching . . . An American Marriage poses profound questions about what we owe each other, and what injustices we allow to persist."
"One of America's finest writers, Tayari Jones has offered up another masterpiece with her latest novel, a tremendously powerful story about love, injustice, inequality, and strength. An American Marriage reveals how quickly dreams can be derailed due to systemic malignant forces all around us. It's a novel of vision and grace, and it will bury itself in your consciousness."
“Tayari Jones is a wonderful storyteller. Anyone who has read Jones’s earlier works (Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow) is familiar with her strong authorial voice and her careful construction of each sentence, paragraph, and chapter. Her attention to craft is paramount. An American Marriage is an engrossing novel about many things, but at its heart, it’s a love story, a uniquely American love story.”
"It’s always an event when there’s new writing from Tayari Jones . . . "
“Jones crafts an affecting tale that explores marriage, family, regret, and other feelings made all the more resonant by her well-drawn characters and their intricate conflicts of heart and mind.”
“Jones (Silver Sparrow) lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment in this piercing tale of an unspooling marriage . . . Masterfully executed . . . Jones uses her love triangle to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South, while also delivering a satisfying romantic drama.”
“Tayari Jones displays tremendous writing prowess with An American Marriage, an enchanting novel that succeeds at every level. From the very start, An American Marriage pulls the reader in with gorgeous prose. Even beyond its plot, the story soars. It doesn’t just focus on one instance of a marriage; it explores philosophical and political quandaries, including generational expectations of men and women, the place of marriage in modern society, systemic racism, toxic masculinity, and more. It does so in a gentle, subtle way, avoiding didacticism as it nudges the reader to question their own conventions and ideals. There are rarely novels as timely or fitting as An American Marriage. It brings abstract ideas about race and love down to the material level. The story is gripping, and the characters are unforgettable.”
—Foreword Reviews (starred review)
“I love An American Marriage and I’m so excited for this book to be in the world. Tayari’s novel is timely, thoughtful, and beautifully written. Reading it, I found myself angry as hell, laughing out loud, choking up and cheering. A gem of a book.”
—Jacqueline Woodson, author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming
“Tayari Jones is blessed with vision to see through to the surprising and devastating truths at the heart of ordinary lives, strength to wrest those truths free, and a gift of language to lay it all out, compelling and clear. That has been true from her very first book, but with An American Marriage that vision, that strength, and that truth-telling voice have found a new level of artistry and power.”
—Michael Chabon, author of Moonglow
“Tayari Jones is a great storyteller. An American Marriage holds the reader from first page to last, with her compassionate observation, her clear-eyed insight and her beautifully written and complex characters. Jones understands love and loss and writes with passion and precision about the forces that move us all from one to another.”
—Amy Bloom, author of Lucky Us
“An American Marriage asks hard questions about injustice and betrayal, and answers them with a heartbreaking and genuinely suspenseful love story in which nobody's wrong and everybody's wounded. Tayari Jones has written a complex and important novel about people trapped in a tragic situation, struggling to reconcile their responsibilities and desires.”
—Tom Perrotta, author of Mrs. Fletcher
“Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage is a stunning epic love story filled with breathtaking twists and turns, while bursting with realized and unrealized dreams. Skillfully crafted and beautifully written, An American Marriage is an exquisite, timely, and powerful novel that feels both urgent and indispensable.”
—Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory
“Tayari Jones weaves a moving love story in her new novel, An American Marriage.”
“[A] very insightful, touching story about contemporary relationships.”
–Liberty Hardy, Book Riot
“Tayari Jones…beautifully weaves the repugnant racism of the judicial system into a love story. In writing as lyrical and efficient as prose, Jones presents what happens to two men and a woman when justice is denied.”
“Jones’s prose is masterful. An American Marriage is a must-read, not just for fans of narratives about love but for anyone who has known what is to struggle with the choice between pushing forward and letting go.”
—Tulsa Book Review
About the Author
- Lexile measure : HL770L
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781616208776
- ISBN-13 : 978-1616208776
- Dimensions : 6.3 x 1 x 9.1 inches
- Publisher : Algonquin Books; Oprah's Book Club edition (February 6, 2018)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 1616208775
- Best Sellers Rank: #29,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I could not relate to any of the main characters. I got so tired of Celestial and Andre, both of them got under my skin. Celestial is shallow, selfish, uncompromising, and she thinks the world revolves around her. I pegged her from the start, I knew she didn't love Roy. She will fall for any man who gives her special attention, i.e. Roy and her professor. How long will she stay with Andre? Andre pretended to be a "friend" to Roy but secretly wanted his wife. I felt sorry for Roy because of his situation but he should have seen through Celestial & Andre much sooner.
I only finished this book because of the book club, it left me with negative feelings wondering if most people live this way. Sad to think.
Many in my book club could not complete this book. I won't recommend this book to anyone because I didn't care for the subject matter.
This book was seriously so moving. Tayari created real people, people I feel like I know or went to church or school with and it's always a treat when an author writes a story so complex that you're not actually sure whose side you're supposed to be on. I wasn't going to review this book because I felt like it was going to get so many reviews that mine wouldn't matter, but I stumbled upon a one-star review for this book and the reviewer simply said "I can't connect to these characters. It was mostly letters."
I don't know how many of y'all can relate to a black couple in America ripped apart by a flawed justice system, but I personally got teary eyed by the second letter (the first one written by Roy). I'm only 22. I've never been married. I'm not a doll maker. I am NOTHING like these characters. But you know what? I can relate to them. As I read this story, I got incredibly emotional because I thought to myself--this is within the realm of possibility for me in my reality. This could happen to me. That's why this story was so moving to me.
To the reader who inspired me to write this review because they "couldn't relate" and therefore think that's a reason to one-star a beautifully written story like this, if I wanted to read books about myself, I'd just read through my old facebook statuses. Not being able to see yourself in the characters doesn't take away from the moving story being told. Often times publishing companies are wary about releasing books like Ms. Jones' because of readers like this, but for readers like me, stories like this stay with us for weeks long after we've read the last page.
I am two months into 2018 and I feel l'm going to have a very hard time finding a book that has affected me as much as this one has. Also, to the person who likened this book to a Tyler Perry show--side eyeing you and how wrong that statement was.
Basically, this is a book in which two people who were never well suited find themselves in a situation in which their ill suited relationship becomes (surprise!) more ill suited with time. And you, dear reader, get to sit through every miserable minute of their relationship crumbling to ruins.
I should have known better than to read a book about a love triangle. I've read enough of them and I know that at least two people in the love triangle are heartless. I hated every single character in this book. They were all awful in their own ways. Roy was a possessive, macho jerk and Celestial seemed cold. Poor, spineless Andre. And the part where Roy comes home never seemed to end. Celestial and him had the same conversation three times. Three. And he asked Andre the same question six separate times and got the same exact answer every time and no resolution was ever reached. Listen, in real life, maybe you talk things out for a while, but I really, really don't want to read about it in excruciating detail. It's rare that I get to the end of a book and whisper, "Finally!"
Top reviews from other countries
For the book to work, the reader has to connect with the central characters. Unfortunately, I didn't. The only character I really liked was Big Roy and the part he played in the story.
It is well-written and I think if you do connect with the characters, you'll love it.
I'm a British reader, and while the book is about universal terms of love, respect and marriage I found it a very American book so there was an extra hurdle for me to jump to find the characters relatable.
I've just finished it and I was determined to write a review whilst it's still fresh in my mind. But I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said. Beautiful isn't really an adjective I'd equate to a book, but this was, the writing was beautiful. The characters were so fulsome and so three dimensional you couldn't help but feel for them, be enveloped in them and share in their pain. I could feel myself holding back tears, I couldn't help but feel totally emotive, cursing when it came time to putting the book down, remembering that my husband would otherwise starve to death if I didn't get up and go and cook dinner. But I always looked forward to going back to it. The protagonists had their own part of their story to tell, from their own perspective, and you ached with sympathy, with empathy and with a longing to see everybody turn out happy. Life was dealt a cruel to them and it was up to them to untangle the messy predicament they found themselves in.
If you'd like to go on an emotional journey that leaves you completely wrung out, I would highly recommend An American Marriage. It's worth your money and your time.
A few people have commented here and I have to do the same, but the writing is just not realistic. Of course some people do have a wonderful way with words, but to have three main characters and their parents speak and write in the most beautiful, embroidered sentences will eventually make you roll your eyes a bit. Equally, none of the characters are likeable, but perhaps the author's intention was to make them this way to highlight the way prison can change lives and personalities.
Overall, glad to have read it but wouldn't read again. I thought it was going to be more about the American judicial system and its bias, rather than a solid love story.
While I certainly felt for Roy’s situation it was hard to really engage with he and Celestial as characters. Towards the end I almost threw in the towel with regards to the over-the-top emoting that was happening. Roy became such an entitled man baby. In some ways he and Michael from OP would probably relate well to one another.
I will be discussing this in a few days with our reading group and that may lead to a revision but right now it’s a 2 and likely this is at the bottom of my shortlist.
The unfairness in what happens to Roy is tragic yet this story goes way beyond that and becomes more about survival, love and humanity. This book isn't about prison as such; in fact, him serving his sentence is a relatively small part of it and there is no day-to-day of his life inside. It's about people.
One of many ideas which stays with me after reading this book is how even in this day and age a decent man's life can be swept away on a whim because he is black. Working hard and following all the rules won't be enough and everyone in this book knows it and lives with that fact.
You'll keep thinking about this book and the people in it after you've read the last page. I recommend this book very highly.