Review: An American Marriage

Tayari Jones’s fourth novel and Oprah’s 2018 Book Club pick, An American Marriage, is an emotional, powerful and gripping novel about love, family, and the criminal justice system and its injustices. It is an intimate portrait of love and how tragic events can cause that love to falter. How sometimes, love, just isn’t enough.

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Synopsis from Goodreads: “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.”

An American Marriage was my Book of the Month pick for February and I am so happy that I ended up choosing it. The writing was spectacular, the characters were rich, and the story was moving. Jones does not pull any punches, her writing hits you in the gut with emotion from all sides. I read this book in two days, and on the first day I started crying on page 35 and didn’t stop until I put the book down on page 138.

Told in part by letters between Roy and Celestial, and then told from the perspectives of the three main characters, this isn’t the story of courtroom drama, like one might expect when you find out one of the characters is wrongly committed of a crime, but one of the devastation of a family. Both Roy and Celestial are doing all of the right things, they are hard working, in love, and young, they still suffer the fate of having their lives dashed. An innocent man, confined to a prison cell for 12 years, the action of someone else derailing Roy’s life, leaving him powerless to stop what is going to happen – it is this that makes the slow burn of the book all the more powerful.

“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.”

While this story is very much about the personal story of Celestial and Roy, you can not dismiss the racial context of the story. Roy is a black man, convicted wrongly of rape, and he loses his freedom for it. However, throughout the story, the characters mainly remain thankful that he is even alive, Celestial says at one point that there is “no appealing a cop’s bullet.” While even though Roy has done everything right, he has a good job, he is a good man, he makes good choices, even his family have lived good middle class lives, he recognizes that what happened to him could have happened to anyone, and when he says this, his friend, Andre responds with, “You think I don’t know that? I been black all my life.” Now released, he is set to become someone that society all too frequently casts aside and dismisses: the ex-convict. Although Jones makes it clear that this doesn’t have to be Roy’s future. That there is still hope.

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This book moved me, and it stuck with me for the next couple days after I finished it. It still sticks with me now as I think about it. My conflicts with the characters and the decisions that were made, my heartbreak for them, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that I felt with Roy for most of the book. All I wanted was for these characters to find happiness, and I think Jones gives it to them, and for that I am grateful.

– Hannah

p.s. After I finished reading I immediately cast my perfect movie adaptation and it goes as follows:

Roy: Michael B Jordan

Celestial: Lupita Nyong’o

Andre: Daniel Kaluuya

It would be perfect. You’re welcome to the future production company that chooses to make this book into a film. I’ve done all your hard work for you.

 

 

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10 Tips and Tricks to Read More

The first thing that I hear when I talk about my reading goals is “I don’t have the time to read” and a fairy dies every time. Okay… I’m being a little bit dramatic. Maybe. But, it’s true. A lot of people, myself included, are living such busy lives. For some, every minute is carefully planned out. For myself, and I’m sure there are others like me, every day is spent desperately trying to plan my day and constantly being stressed out about how much I need to do in any given day and yet still I only have 24 hours in a day. 24 hours generally never seems like enough time.

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(Seriously, 24 hours in a day isn’t enough time.)

I find that reading is one of the best ways for myself to find some peace, and to relax during the day – so finding time to read is imperative for me. Because it is so important to me, I’ve been able to find ways to find more time during the day to read and I wanted to share my list of tips and tricks with you:

  1. Always carry a book with you – I always have my current read with me, generally a physical copy in my purse. Not only that though, I also carry with me my Kindle, just in case I finish my current read or if I’m not particularly feeling up to reading my current read, for whatever reason.
  2. Read multiple books at a time – This one is *almost* the same as number 1. I find that if I’m reading multiple books at a time, I don’t get so discouraged when I’m not in the mood for something. It gives me more options to choose from depending on how I’m feeling that day.
  3. Put your phone down – Seriously, it seems hard, but once you get in the habit of not having your phone on you, you’ll realize how much time you actually spend on your phone. At the end of the year I was reflecting about how much time I spend on my phone staring at my Facebook feed like a zombie. I ended up deactivating my Facebook and deleted the app from my phone (deactivating Facebook did not deactivate my messenger, which was nice as I do use that as a means to communicate with some of my friends) and I realized one weekend that I had set my phone down when I got home at 6pm and didn’t pick it up again until I set my alarm when I went to bed at 10. It. Was. Amazing.
  4. Give up books that you don’t enjoy – This is a interesting idea. People feel very strongly about whether you should finish a book whether you like it or not. I used to fall under that camp, but then after forcing myself to read some really awful books that I hated I was so discouraged I had a hard time picking up a new book. Now that I only read books that I’m really enjoying, I am reading so much more.
  5. Set a goal – Try setting a goal to keep you motivated to read more. Make sure though, that you keep your goal reasonable. If you only read one or two books last year, don’t set a goal to read 100 books this year, you’ll only get discouraged if you read 10 (even though that would have felt like an accomplishment if thats what you had set your goal too).
  6. Join a book club – Find a book club to join. Your local bookstores, libraries, the Oprah Bookclub, Reese Witherspoon’s book club, (to name a few ideas), or even start your own with some of your friends. Reading books with friends or other people can be one of the most enjoyable ways to read a book, it gives you the option to rant or rave about which ever book you are currently reading to people who will understand and/or commiserate.
  7. Find a reading challenge – Try to participate in a reading challenge. There are tons of really fun ones out there that can get you reading something you wouldn’t have picked out on your own. My favorites are the challenges that don’t tell you what book to read but give you a prompt and you can pick the book you want to read that will fit that prompt.
  8. Share what you’ve read – Get a Goodreads account, start a blog, or a bookstagram. Posting about what you’re reading or what you’ve read can help you find other people to talk about that book with, get recommendations, and possibly make new friends in the process.
  9. Take notes – I’m a big supporter in writing in your books (I’m actually working on a more detailed post in regards to that). Keeping notes, or keeping track of favorite passages, will help you understand the authors message more clearly.
  10. Read – Simply, read. You will never read more if you don’t just start reading. Once you get into the habit of finding time to read, you will find yourself reading more.

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(Has anyone seen this episode of The Twilight Zone? Heartbreaking.)

Do you have any tips or tricks to finding more time to read? Did I miss anything? Let me know!

– Hannah