Reviews

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

lbrex's review

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5.0

At first I wasn't sure what to make of this novel, with its intimate portrait of a marriage followed by a fracturing of the narrative into a series of disjointed letters. The book refocuses itself, however, in its last two thirds, to give us the portrait of a couple's relationship from three different rotating perspectives, all of which, in a way that impressed me, manage to seem understandable and, simultaneously, problematic. At the core of the book, though, is a careful critique of the assumption, even an unconscious assumption, that a woman in the 21st century still becomes "property" of her husband upon marriage. This is not something discussed explicitly until nearer to the end of the novel; instead, Jones lets it bubble up as Ray and Celestial's marriage begins to warp under the stress of his unjust incarceration. This novel certainly made me think, but I also appreciated the suspense and the careful unraveling of the story. Family secrets, terrible fears, and personal weaknesses, many of them considered in relation to the race of the characters, rise to the surface as you read, with the unique world of the main characters' parents often providing a counterpoint to the main narrative. My only (tiny) complaint might be that the book is sometimes a bit too reliant on coincidence, most notably in one of the revelations of Ray's jail time. Still, though, this is ultimately a very interesting, thoughtful and engaging novel that I recommend to those with an interest in contemporary literature and American literature.

drwozniak's review

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4.0

Excellent and bitter.

stephaniefore's review

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challenging dark emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

valhecka's review

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4.0

Important. Worth every accolade it's received and more.

august_reader's review

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3.0

The story has its ups & downs. There were times when I was really engrossed in the book, while there were times when I actually wanted to abandon the story.
And, I guess the abandoning parts were a lot more than the 'keeping me hooked to the book' parts.

More like a 2.5/5 read for me.

whatimreading_'s review

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5.0

Very good book, it was hard to put down and even had me thinking about the scenes throughout the day. The author has a way with words and is very descriptive. I was sad once I finished the book and really wanted to see how the married couple were going to work things out..

jolafaith_jpg's review

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2.0

So sad that I didn't enjoy this. Unfortunately, I felt disconnected throughout the novel. While I was very intrigued in the premise of a wrongful conviction and the ways it effects both those incarcerated and also those on the outside... I was let down by the ending, and the lack of expansion on the main idea.

I felt like the characters however representative they are of personality types, had behaviors that went unexplored. I know this is a bit vague (for fear of spoilers) but to me, the poignant lesson I hoped to see showcased just wasn't. I hated the main male character and was frustrated and pitied the main female. I didn't like that unrealistic things punctuated what had such potential to be moving. It took me out of the story.

I would love to read another book with this same idea, but perhaps that gets a bit darker and with characters that feel more fully formed. Perhaps the writing is just not for me.




(maybe a spoiler) The thing I struggled most with was that Roy, our main guy who is wrongfully convicted, is an old-school character. He acts like his wife's independence is "cute" but is obviously sexist and has a double standard. He cheats and sees it as harmless or just boys being boys. His mother and father are similar in their traditional views and never like Celestial or her lofty aspirations. Everything comes back to her being what a woman is supposed to be and how that serves a man. Women are property, especially when they are married. And while I don't believe that the author shares this viewpoint, I found that Roy not only got away with it but also was allowed and supported when those feelings accelerated. At the end of the story things resolved in a way that was dissatisfying and frustrating. I couldn't tell if I was meant to feel hope and empathy for Roy, but I hated him.

boardgamegal's review against another edition

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

wintermote's review

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4.0

So good, so painful.

evenchicago's review against another edition

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes

3.75