An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage.jpg

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
Algonquin Books (February 6, 2018)
320 pages
Advance copy provided by publisher

Last fall, I met Sarah of Sarah's Book Shelves for the first time (in real life, that is!); surprisingly, we spent very little of our time discussing books but, when did speak of them, Sarah mentioned a book she'd recently added to her list, a late winter release called An American Marriage. I made a mental note.

Looking back on it, it’s like watching a horror flick and wondering why the characters are so determined to ignore the danger signs. When a spectral voice says, get out, you should do it. But in real life, you don’t know that you’re in a scary movie.

With most novels and stories that I enjoy in a deep down kind of way, a level of enjoyment that is tough to describe, there is a particular element which has resonated with me on a personal level; however, when I think of An American Marriage, there is no way to distinguish any one theme or character because I felt like I was inside the story from the very beginning. 

Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.

Jones's prose is completely captivating, the story powerfully compelling; I had no idea how quickly I would read through this novel but, once I began, I could not stop. Roy Hamilton and Celestial Davenport have been married for less than two years when Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit, then sentenced to twelve years in prison.

You also have to work with the love you are given, with all of the complications clanging behind it like tin cans tied to a bridal sedan.

This novel is not about an unjust conviction, a prison sentence, or an affair; instead, it is about unspoken expectations, idealization and fearful wondering during extended absence, and our roles and responsibilities as individuals, sometimes spouses, to one another. 

Marriage is like grafting a limb onto a tree trunk. You have the limb, freshly sliced, dripping sap, and smelling of springtime, and then you have the mother tree stripped of her protective bark, gouged and ready to receive this new addition [...]. Even now, all these years later, there’s something not quite natural about the tree, even in its amazing two-tone glory.

Due to my own personal experiences with the subject matter, I feel confident in stating that this novel resonated with me more than it will with most readers; numerous passages have been highlighted and there were times when I had to put the book down, sit back, and reflect on what I'd read. 

Would anybody who knew me then recognize me today? Innocent or not, prison changes you, makes you into a convict. Striding across the parking lot, I actually shook my head like a wet dog to get these thoughts out of my mind. I reminded myself that the point was that I was walking out the door. Front door, back door. Same difference.

Having acknowledged a very personal connection, I must also admit that I will wholeheartedly recommend this one to nearly every reader I know; An American Marriage will likely become one of my favorite books of the year. 

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah