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An American Marriage: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club 2018 Selection) Hardcover – February 6, 2018
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
—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)
“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
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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.
When I received this book in the mail, I looked it over but thought I wouldn't enjoy it. As a matter of fact, it sat on my shelf for months and I was going to pass over it. I thought I wouldn't enjoy it since the story is about a Black married couple facing problems due to the husband's incarceration. I thought "how will I relate to this?" In the spirit of expanding my reading in 2018, I picked it up...and couldn't put it down. The low, rumbling thunder of the storyline absolutely gripped me. Celestial and Roy have many common marriage challenges (in-laws, discussions about starting a family, their careers) that make their marriage relatable and while Roy's incarceration the central axis around which the story revolves, this is not a story about prison. It is a story of all the people who are affected by Roy's incarceration. Tayari Jones captured so many layers of emotion in this book and I have no hesitation stating that it is one of the best novels I've ever read regarding humanity, identity, family structures, and marriage. A five star read that I am so so so glad I didn't pass over!
According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet:
In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.
African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites
In 2012 alone, the United States spent nearly $81 billion on corrections.
Spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of spending on Pre-K-12 public education in the last thirty years.
I will forever think of An American Marriage when faced with statistics like these or in discussions of white privilege.
This is a beautifully written book that not only takes an in depth look at an American marriage that has been dealt a severe blow but also racial injustice. I love how the author switches to using only letters between the characters once Roy is sentenced to prison. It underscores the separation and distance that has been imposed between these two. They’re each fighting their individual battles – Roy with the injustice of what has been done to him and all that he’s lost when he has tried so hard to do everything right and Celestial is dealing with a battle between responsibility and desire.
The love story is heart wrenching and the suspense of what will happen is often unbearable. Highly recommended.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.