An American Marriage (Jones)

An American Marriage 
Tayari Jones, 2018
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
320 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781616208776


Summary
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.

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. 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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth— November 30, 1970
Where—Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Education—Spelman College; Arizona State University; University of Iowa
Awards—Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (twice); Lillian C. Smith Award
Currently—lives in Booklyn, New York City


Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including An American Marriage (2018, an Oprah Book Club pick), Silver Sparrow (2011), The Untelling (2005), and Leaving Atlanta (2002). Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She lives in Brooklyn.

Currently, she serves on the MFA faculty at Rutgers-Newark. She has also been the recipient of the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (Adapted from the publisher and Wikipedia. Retrieved 2/6/2018.)

Visit the author's blog.



Book Reviews
Jones maintains a brisk pace…. The dialogue …[is] sometimes too heavily weighted by exposition, and the language slides toward melodrama. But the central conflict is masterfully executed: Jones … explore[s] simmering class tensions and …racial injustice,
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) Jones's writing is engagingly layered with letters between the main characters integrated through the narrative. Her personal letter to readers demonstrates how writing this novel changed her.  —Ashanti White, Fayetteville, NC
Library Journal


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.
Booklist


(Starred review.) Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.… 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.
Kirkus Reviews


(Starred review.) [A]n enchanting novel.… [It] explores philosophical and political quandaries, including generational expectations of men and women, the place of marriage in society, systemic racism, toxic masculinity … [while] avoiding didacticism.… [G]ripping, and the characters are unforgettable.
Forward Reviews



Discussion Questions
1) The title of this novel is "An American Marriage." Do you feel this title accurately represents the novel? Why or why not? And if you do find the title appropriate, what about the story makes it particularly "American"?

2) When Celestial asks Roy if he would have waited for her for more than five years, he doesn’t answer her question but reminds her that, as a woman, she would not have been imprisoned in the first place. Do you feel that his response is valid, and do you think it justifies his infidelity? Do you believe that he would have remained faithful if Celestial had been the one incarcerated? Does this really matter, and if so, why?

3) In her "Dear John" letter to Roy, Celestial says, "I will continue to support you, but not as your wife." What do you think she means by this statement? Do you feel that Roy is wrong to reject her offer?

4) You may not have noticed that Tayari Jones does not specify the race of the woman who accuses Roy of rape. How did you picture this woman? What difference does the race of this woman make in the way you understand the novel’s storyline?

5) Andre insists that he doesn’t owe Roy an apology for the way his relationship with Celestial changed. Do you agree? Why or why not?

6) There are two father figures in Roy’s life: Big Roy is the one who shepherded him into adulthood and helped him grow into a responsible, capable person, but Walter is the one who taught Roy how to survive. Do you feel these men deserve equal credit? If not, which was the more important figure in Roy’s life and why?

7) Big Roy explains that he and Olive never had children of their own because Olive feared that he would not love Roy as much if he had his "own" children. Do you feel she had the authority to make that decision? And do you feel she was right in making that decision?

8) When Roy is released from prison, he first goes to his childhood home and almost immediately makes a connection with Davina. Do you feel that given the tenuous relationship he has with Celestial—who is still legally his wife—he is cheating? Why or why not? And when Roy announces to Davina his intention to return to his wife, do you feel that her anger is justified?

9) Roy is hurt when Celestial, in discussing her career as an artist, doesn’t mention him or the role he played in giving her the encouragement and freedom to follow her dreams, but Walter argues that she is justified in her silence. Do you agree? Do you think her silence is due to shame, or is she just being practical in how she presents herself to advance her career?

10) It is obvious that Andre is different from Roy in many ways. Do you feel that ultimately he is a better match for Celestial? If so, why? Also, why do you think Celestial and Andre decide against formally marrying? Do you think that as a couple they will be good and nurturing parents? Do you feel that as a couple, they will be better at parenting than Celestial and Roy would have been? If so, why?

11) Do you think that Andre strategized to get Celestial to fall in love with him, or did it happen naturally? Do you feel that it was a surprise to them that it happened after all those years? Do you predict that Celestial’s parents will come to accept Andre as her life partner?

12) Toward the end of the novel, Celestial does a complete about-face and returns to Roy. What do you think her emotions were in coming to that decision? Do you feel that it was the right decision?
(Questions issued by the publishers.)

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