An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

by Tayari Jones

Paperback, 2019




Algonquin Books (2019), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages


Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn't commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy's time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.… (more)


½ (1108 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member asxz
There was not a single believable word that emerged from any of the characters throughout the 300 pages of this soapfest. Worse, though, each of the POV characters narrating the Hallmark Romance plot is pretty much a terrible person. Not one of them is able to generate even the tiniest dribble of
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empathy for another as they stumble around explaining and re-explaining how tough life has been for them... for them and no one else.

There are some genuine issues here, fleetingly touched upon, like the unjust conviction and incarceration rates of African American men and the burden of parenthood, but it's all brushed aside as soon as there's an opportunity for more self-pity and overwrought drama. Hopeless inauthentic tosh featuring unlikeable leads who believe that acting only in one's self-interest in any given instance is an admirable life choice..
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
Celestial and Roy have been married for a year and a half when he is convicted of a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for twelve years. While he is away, Celestial's relationship with her childhood friend, Andre, evolves into a romance that she and Dre believe has always been meant to be.
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Roy is released after only five years and all three lives have been radically altered. The best part of the novel is the letters between Celestial and Roy while he is in prison. Their voices emerge and their individual stories unfold compellingly; they ring true. Celestial, Roy, and Dre are memorable characters: each basically good but believably flawed.

This is the story of an American marriage but it's also the story of the toll incarceration takes on the lives it touches. The African American characters accept that they are more likely to be incarcerated as a simple fact of life. Their feelings about this -- and about all the other realities with which they are confronted -- are rationally complex but Jones does not drift into social commentary. Her focus is the people emerging from the page, the tensions in their interdependent relationships, and the absence of a pat happy ending.
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LibraryThing member mabroms
America’s original sin, slavery, continues to plague the country. Nowhere is it more horribly expressed than in what it does to men of color and their loved ones. This is the subject that Tayari Jones has bravely taken on in “An American Marriage”. The 1st Act is some of the most compelling
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fiction that I have read in a good, long while. I know of what Jones writes, from each and every angle. She nails it, without being indulgent or saccharine. “An American Marriage” is sad, tragic, and terrifying. But more than anything else, it is real.
I hope that “An American Marriage” gets the widest possible exposure and take-up. This injustice has to end. Thanks to @LibraryThing and@ AlgonquinBooks.
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LibraryThing member bookchickdi
Five years ago, I went to my local Barnes & Noble to hear Judy Blume interview a young author, Tayari Jones, who spoke about her book Silver Sparrow. Her novel, about a man who married two women and had a daughter by each, was so brilliant and moving, I was mesmerized by it.

Last June, I was
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thrilled to meet Ms. Jones again, at the Book Expo in NYC, and to get a copy of her upcoming book An American Marriage, which publishes Februrary 6th. Once again, Tayari Jones has written a stunning novel, and it has already garnered so much worthy praise, including being Oprah's Book Club's latest pick. (Hooray!)

Roy is a black man who grew up in a small Louisiana town called Eloe. His mother worked at a meat-and-three restaurant, his daddy worked at a sporting goods store. They weren't poor, but "there was nothing extra."

Roy made it to Morehouse College on a scholarship for first generation college students. While there, he met and fell in love with Celestial, a young woman who grew up in Atlanta, the daughter of a well-to-do family.

Celestial and Roy were happy together- Roy had a good job as a salesman for a textbook company, Celestial was an artist, making cloth dolls and hoping one day to hit it big selling them. They were married for just over a year, when it happened.

While visiting Roy's parents, they stayed at a hotel. The visit with Roy's parents didn't go well (his mother wants grandbabies, Celestial wants to wait), and Roy and Celestial have a big fight.

When a woman is attacked that night at the hotel, she tells the police it was Roy who did it. In a moment, his entire life is turned upside down. He is charged, tried and convicted and goes to prison.

Not only is Roy's life upended, so is Celestial's. The story is told from three points of view- Roy, Celestial and her childhood friend Andre's.

We see how the bonds of Roy and Celestial's marriage are tested throughout their separation. Roy states "I believed that our marriage was a fine-spun tapestry, fragile but fixable. We tore it often and mended it again, always with a silken thread, lovely but sure to give way again."

An American Marriage is a heartbreaking novel that deals with the big themes of the difficulties and joys of marriage, race, class, loyalty, and the price of mass incarceration (both to the individual and society as a whole), through the prism of Roy and Celestial's marriage.

I didn't want An American Marriage to end. It is a book to savor, and I was sad when I finished it. You feel so deeply for these characters, caught up in a situation not of their making. Tayari Jones is an amazing storyteller, and she weaves her way into your heart and soul with her words.

I give An American Marriage my highest recommendation- you must read this book!
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LibraryThing member W.MdO
I enjoyed An American Marriage, as sad as it was in so many parts. I was riveted by the way it cycled through multiple narrators to illustrate how a promising marriage is tested by wrongful imprisonment- although I didn't always like the characters themselves, and sometimes the story veered a
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little too sharply into cliché. Would recommend.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
Marriage is a popular subject matter for authors, and it is easy to see why. The idea of taking two different people and having them work through their differences to create a lifethat works best for them is rife with conflict. Moreover, marriage is difficult. It is not something that grows and
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matures spontaneously. It requires effort from both parties and a commitment to stay through the rough times. Most authors are quite successful in painting realistic pictures of marriage, or so I thought until I read Tayari Jones‘ novel An American Marriage.

An American Marriage is not just a story about a young couple forced to rethink their future as one is wrongly imprisoned, nor is it a story about marriage although it blows all other marriage stories out of the water. It is a story about relationships in general. It is also a story about black culture and the inherent challenges society creates solely due to skin color. It is a story about the judicial system and the racial bias that exists. It is a story about all of this and none of this because Roy and Celestial and their relationship remains the beating heart of the novel.

At no point in time does Ms. Jones beat readers over the head with her message. Her comments about black culture and about racism are simply that. Meant to fill in the details of Celestial and Roy’s life, they provide the backdrop needed to create understanding for readers not familiar with this culture and not daily exposed to racism, whether blatant or subtle. There is no pontificating, no wrestling with the unfairness of it all. She presents her story and her characters in a matter-of-fact manner that does more to raise your awareness of what is than any preaching could accomplish. To Roy and Celestial and their friends and family, this is what life is and there is not much they can do about it. Chilling.

An American Marriage is best read cold without any preconceived notions or any idea of the story. Only then can you experience the full gamut of emotions the novel conveys. Only then can Ms. Jones’ subtle messages filter into your subconscious. Only then can you recognize the ongoing racism people of color experience every day. Only then does the novel blow you away with its simultaneous beauty and pathos. Only then can you appreciate the mastery with which Ms. Jones structures her story and marvel at the nuances she uses to create a vibrant picture of life in the south for persons of color. Only then can you recognize An American Marriage for what it is – one of the best books of 2018.
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LibraryThing member sallylou61
This novel tells about black life in the South including love, marriage, fathers’ abandoning their families, substitute fathers, and the incarceration of innocent black men, and to a lesser extent prison life. The story is told alternately through the eyes of the three main characters: Roy -- a
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young married man who is unjustly incarcerated -- his wife, Celestial, and Andre, the man Celestial falls in love with while Roy is in prison. The part when Roy is in prison is told through letters, mostly but not entirely between Roy and Celestial. Some of the background is told through flashbacks. Much of the story is a page-turner; it is hard to stop reading.

However, especially at the beginning of the book, I found both Roy and Celestial, who were arguing, to be rather unlikeable. Roy’s being charged and imprisoned occurred near the beginning of the story; it happened suddenly with no court scene being described. Celestial and Andre never took real responsibility for their behavior while Roy was in prison; they merely said they were not at fault. There is a very violent scene near the end of the book, which I feel detracts from the story, but might be realistic concerning the circumstances. In spite of all that, the book is well-written and tells an interesting story.
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LibraryThing member hubblegal
Roy and Celestial have been married for about a year and are thinking of finding a bigger house and starting a family. Roy has a good job and Celestial is doing well creating her artistic dolls. Their love for each other is strong. All of that falls to pieces when Roy is convicted of a crime he’s
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innocent of. Separated by this unjust verdict, Celestial is finding it hard to hold on to a marriage that hadn’t yet had time to “take”. She compares their marriage to a tree that has had a limb of another tree grafted on to it but the graft hasn’t taken yet. In her loneliness, she turns more and more to Andre, her childhood friend. Will this separation between husband and wife completely sever their ties?

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.
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LibraryThing member susan0316
This was an outstanding novel. It's the first book that I've read by this author but it won't be the last - in fact I just ordered one of her earlier books. This is a book that will make you smile and make you cry because you will be so invested into the lives of the two main characters. Celestial
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and Roy are so well written - flaws and all - that you feel like you know them.

Celestial and Roy have been married just over a year. They are both successful in their careers, own a nice house and are starting to talk about starting a family. Despite the normal problems that exist in marriage, they are in love and making plans for their future. Then something horrendous happens that puts all of their plans on hold when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime that they both know he didn't commit. They are both lost in their new lives and their love for each other becomes less as time goes on. During Roy's time in prison, the author had them communicating through letters showing their increased distance from each other. Will they be able to go back to their old lives when Roy gets out of prison or will the changes in both of their lives make it impossible for that to happen?

This is a wonderful novel about love and marriage, racial injustice and the difference between the rich and the poor in this country. The main characters are well written but there are other secondary characters that are just as memorable. This is a book that will stay in my mind long after the last page was read.

Thanks to librarything for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
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LibraryThing member danfango
I loved this book. I have not read many books written by southern black authors, so I really enjoyed the descriptions and language that were somewhat foreign to me. Richly developed characters and interesting take on both new and old marriages. The ending surprised me but was very satisfying. I am
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looking forward to more books from Tayari Jones.
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
Black men in America--whether they are college-educated, middle-class, and fully employed or not--are but one arrest, false accusation, and jury trial away from being incarcerated.

But what happens to those they leave behind? In this novel Jones looks at Roy Jr and Celestial, relative newlyweds,
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middle/upper-middle class Atlantans. Until he is accused and arrested and tried in rural Louisiana, on a trip to visit his parents. He is innocent, but it doesn't really matter. The jury believes the accuser (whom he believes does not realize she is wrong) over himself and his alibi, his wife.

So off he goes to jail on a 12-year sentence. And while he is gone Celestial tries visiting, tries keeping it a secret, and continues on with her Poupees art doll business to great success.

But can a couple--married just 1.5 years when pulled apart--keep their marriage together under such circumstances?
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LibraryThing member conniemcmartin
Fantastic book! Thought-provoking subject matter and very real characters, just like I like in my fiction. Despite its depth, it is a quick read. Had I not had Thanksgiving to contend with I could have read this book in a couple of sittings. It pulls you in from the very start and won't let go
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until the intense ending. Loved every minute of it.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Roy has done the best he could with the life he was given. Now married to Celestial, a young woman with dreams of her own, are traveling to meet his parents for the first time. The visit will prove less than successful, and a terrible miscarriage of Justice will occur that will detail their young
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lives and marriage.

These are characters to that one wants to root for, wants things to turn out well for them. Of course, life seldom works that way, things change, circumstances beyond ones control interfere. A story where events shape a future, where a chance meeting changes a life, where the only bad guy is the Justice system, a system it is almost impossible to defeat. The high cost of incarceration, prisons full of young black men, many times not given a voice, not believed or railroaded by a system who believes the must be guilty. For Roy, his life will never be the same. He must fight to remember who he was, where he was and what he wanted in his life.

This author does an amazing job detailing the crisis in a marriage that was interrupted by the system. Her writing is clear, concise, but pointed and sharp. The characters fully developed people with wants and needs of their own. The love of a family, a father who cares for a son that was not always his, and a young woman who must make a decision that will definitely her life going forward. Quite a book, quite a story.
ARC from Edelweiss.and library thing.
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LibraryThing member kremsa
An American Marriage is a very well written engaging novel about what happens to Roy and Celestial's marriage when Roy, a college educated black man living in the south is imprisoned after being falsely accused of rape. Tayari Jones does a superb job of bringing a richness to all of the characters
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and takes you on an emotional roller coaster while exploring the the complexities of a marriage, race, loyalty and injustice. Told by multiple narrators it was difficult to put down and one of the best books I've read this year.
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LibraryThing member bleached
A sweet, sad tragedy of a couple torn apart by a wrongful conviction, told through narratives and letters. It was difficult to see Celestial and Roy's relationship crumble under the weight of distance and incarceration. The desperation and emotions were raw and real as the characters dealt with
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losses and difficult decisions steeped in oppression. It begs the question, can any relationship survive such a trial?
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LibraryThing member IrishSue
I had the good fortune to hear Tayari Jones a few years ago in Henrico County, Virginia discuss her book Silver Sparrow, so I was very excited to be selected to receive an Early Reviewers copy of An American Marriage.

Tayari once again writes complex characters in complex situations. She reminds us
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that people are not black and white, but shades of gray. And that life and marriage can be messy and complicated. Her style is engaging and beautifully written, whether she creates whole sections of the book as letters written between a husband and wife or alternates chapters from the POV of different characters.

While the characters are complicated, I must admit that I had a hard time with the main female character, Celestial. To me, she came across as very spoiled and self-serving. Life didn’t turn out the way she expected, so she abandons her vows to seek the life that she believes she deserves. When I think of all the newly married couples during World War II who hung in there not knowing whether the husband would die during the war or how war might change him when he returned home, then Celestial falls far short.

Tayari gave me a glimpse into a way of life that I have no experience – the experience of African-Americans in the contemporary South. I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member haymaai
In ‘An American Marriage’ by Tayari Jones, the author introduces the reader to Celestial and Roy, an upwardly mobile African American couple, who, after eighteen months of marriage, seem to be destined toward a promising future. Then suddenly one night, Roy is mistakenly charged with raping a
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woman, a crime to which is innocent. After being sentenced to twelve years in prison, Roy and Celestial find their lives to be uprooted. Roy spends at least five years staring at a prison cell-block, as well as learning how to survive the brutal hierarchy of the prison inmate system. Celestial, meanwhile, moves on to become financially successful with her doll-making enterprise, and she develops a relationship with her neighbor and childhood friend. When Roy is finally released from prison, Celestial and Roy must meet head-on and come to terms with their relationship.
This story is told from multiple points of view, and while in prison, Celestial and Roy often communicated through letters. It was during this portion of the story that I was somewhat disengaged, feeling that I wanted for the tale to advance more quickly.
However, it is at the end, when Roy is released from prison as a free man, that all of the emotions in the novel come to a climax, and I felt most empathetic toward all of the characters, including the old hickory tree. I would recommend this story to develop a better understanding of how relationships can go amiss through tragic events, and how one African American man and woman had to rewrite their life’s story because of measures that were no fault of their own.
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LibraryThing member krwerner
I didn't know anything about this novel when I requested an Early Reviewers copy, but I am so glad I read it. I found the characters to be very compelling and relatable as they navigated an impossible situation. There are portions that are told through letters, as well as gaps in the narrative that
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helped convey the distance in both time and space between the characters. The story moved along quickly and I was always eager to get back to it. This would be an excellent novel to read alongside Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy.
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LibraryThing member lisalangford
My partner received this as an Early Reviewer book. Roy and Celestial are a young married couple, when Roy,being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is convicted of rape. Their marriage is tested as Roy goes to prison.

The relationship is lived and narrated by Roy, Celestial and Andre, their
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mutual friend. Jones is an excellent writer, giving vivid expression to the relationship.

I really enjoyed this book!
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LibraryThing member booksandbosox
I've never read a book by Jones before, but had been hearing lots of buzz for this one, so I was happy to win a copy from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. I wasn't really sure what to expect and I'm not sure I gave the book a fair treatment - sometimes when a book is one that I only read a
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chapter or two of at a time, my experience with it isn't as great as I imagine it could be if I read it in larger chunks. I don't know if that's what happened here, or if it's my privilege talking, but this was just a middle of the road read for me. It's an examination of our justice system, particularly as it relates to black Americans, and what it means to be married. I found the last third of the book to be much more compulsively readable than the first 2/3rds.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.
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LibraryThing member plumcover3
The frailty of love, a marriage, and it's survival is wrapped in a story of injustice with a young professional African American couple. Educated, stylish, Celestial and Roy represent a couple with dreams, skills, and mobility to attain futures they may choose. Their lives hang in the balance of
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fates determined by circumstance, and timing, and rules of a playing board invisible, yet rigid. The book is haunting, and vivid, the characters pumping full of blood, and fury, and signifying everything. An unforgettable story.
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
In An American Marriage, a recent Oprah pick written by Tayari Jones, we experience the journey of a marriage tested by separation. Told in alternating chapters,we first hear about the life of Roy and Celestial as educated, black, career minded up and comers living in Atlanta. Married for over a
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year with minor setbacks due to Roy's wandering eyes, they seem well on the way towards the American Dream. The couple take a fateful trip to visit Roy's parents in Louisiana where one night at the hotel the police crash into their room to arrest Roy. It appears that a woman down the hall was sexually assaulted and is convinced Roy is the one. Though we the readers and his wife know he is innocent, Louisiana courts, (no apparent DNA testing like we see on nightly TV,) sentence him to 12 years in prison. The narrative shifts to the corresponding letters that Roy and Celestial send over the course of two years before Celestial starts to question her commitment to the relationship. In the ladder parts of the novel a third narrator shares the story, Andre, who was both Celestial's best friend growing up and Roy's college buddy. Needless to say the tension builds in this love triangle when Roy is finally reprieved 5 years later.
The novel is a quick read and kept my interest. I think I wished that I liked Roy better, but maybe that wasn't the point. I would recommend the novel and be interested in exploring more of Ms. Jones' work.
Some lines from the novel:
But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.

In the dark, she spoke with her lips so close to mine that I could taste her words, rich and peaty.

This time she folded herself back onto the cushion like she was showing off all her hinges.

Whatever she had to say for herself would draw blood, and it wouldn’t be a clean cut. The truth would hurt jagged, like a dog bite.

But someone was going to pay for what happened to Roy, just as Roy paid for what happened to that woman. Someone always pays. Bullet don’t have nobody’s name on it, that’s what people say. I think the same is true for vengeance. Maybe even for love. It’s out there, random and deadly, like a tornado.
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LibraryThing member amyshaff
I LOVED THIS BOOK! The characters came to life in so many ways and as a reader, you believed the voice for each one of them. Using the form of letter writing between Celestial and Roy was especially interesting because it showed the intensity of emotions between them and the struggle of relating
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from a distance.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
Solid book from start to finish. Tayari Jones does an exceptional job breathing life into her incredibly flawed and incredibly real characters. One year into their marriage Roy is committed of a crime he did not do and sentenced to 12 years. He and his wife Celestial try to make it work, but she
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has a budding business and he is incarcerated. Love isn't easy, but what about a marriage in its infancy can it survive years behind bars? Heart wrenching, gritty, and real, this novel told through multiple perspectives and letters demands to be felt. Can every marriage be saved? Roy and Celestial's marriage isn't perfect, but is there enough love left to salvage? I didn't love either character, but I chafed at the wrongful imprisonment, and I wanted so badly for the two of them to rise above their predicament.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
Roy and Celestial are settling into married life in Atlanta when out of nowhere and completely unexpectedly, Roy is accused and arrested for rape. Celestial is certain that he is innocent, but regardless, he is convicted and sentenced to prison. Though they keep in touch via letters and visits in
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prison, Celestial gradually distances herself from Roy, and begins a whole new life for herself. When Roy's conviction is overturned five years later, he is released from prison, but returns home to a wife he barely knows.

That's a fairly simple plot summary, but of course there are a lot of interesting dynamics occurring throughout this novel. The strength of this story is more in the character development than in the plot itself. There were many times I strongly disliked Celestial for the choices she made (or didn't make). But as an outsider, as a reader, it's easy to judge. Put in a situation such as hers, I'm not sure I would've made better decisions. Tayari Jones presents a realistic portrayal of the effects that an unpredictable situation has on a marriage, and of the collateral damage it in turn wreaks on extended family and friends. I can see how this novel will likely be popular with book clubs, as it would be a good stimulant for discussion.
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National Book Award (Longlist — Fiction — 2018)
Women's Prize for Fiction (Longlist — 2019)
Dublin Literary Award (Shortlist — 2020)
Audie Award (Finalist — Audiobook of the Year — 2019)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Fiction — 2018)
Indies Choice Book Award (Honor Book — Adult Fiction — 2019)
Aspen Words Literary Prize (Longlist — 2019)
Orwell Prize (Longlist — 2019)
Books Are My Bag Readers Award (Shortlist — Fiction — 2019)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Fiction — 2019)
BCALA Literary Awards (Winner — Fiction — 2019)
Oprah's Book Club 2.0 (2018-02 — 2018)
Notable Books List (Fiction — 2019)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

8.19 inches


1616208686 / 9781616208684
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