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Book Review: An American Marriage (+ Book Club Questions)

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This book review of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones gives you the details of this thought-provoking Black Lives Matter book with book club questions. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided some tips from the book and recommended pairings for further learning.

Review of An American Marriage

A marriage is more than your heart, it's your life.

When Oprah's book club tells you to read a book, you read that book. There's a lot that is really fantastic about An American Marriage, and it's one of the more thought-provoking books I have read.  It's the story of what happens to "An American Marriage" of an educated Black couple in the South when the husband is wrongly imprisoned for a heinous crime. 

The characters come alive in the writing, and I felt like I knew them.  The conviction of the husband, Roy, heightens the pre-existing weaknesses of the relationship and creates new ones that will change the lives of the characters forever.  And emotions are plentiful -- from love and joy to anger and resentment.  At the end of the day, it can be said that marriages and human nature are complex things.

As a married woman myself, I found these themes to be profound. Like most women, I had dreamed of the magic of a wedding, but deep down I knew that a wedding is a party where you wear a fancy dress.  Being introverted and analytical, I also always thought, maybe a bit too hard, about the all-encompassing nature of marriage and how we all must be a little mad in order to make this all-encompassing commitment unaware of the future.   

Oprah said she loved the title because it "owns the scale of the story."  At the end of the day, An American Marriage may change your life because it shares a unique perspective of the modern Black American marriage and how wrongful incarceration, class, and parental issues may impact it:

Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.

It also touches upon that which we can and cannot change about our lives: 

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.

An American Marriage is a very thought-provoking read for any American adult, particularly those who are married, as well as those interested in issues of social justice.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

An American Marriage book club questions

Below are unique discussion questions for your book club:

What does the title represent?

Would you prefer a different title?

Discuss the role of race in this book.

Discuss the role of gender in this book.

Discuss the differences between Andre and Roy.

How do you think you would have coped in the shoes of Celestial and/or Roy?

Were the events of this novel bound to unfold the way they did?

If Roy hadn't gone to jail, what else may have differed for these characters?

Which character's perspective did you like the best?

Is Celestial's work as a dollmaker symbolic?

What do you think this novel is intending to say, if anything, about the prison system?

Did you like the ending of this novel or would you have preferred a different fate for the characters?

Did this book live up to the hype of celebrities like Oprah and Barack Obama for you?

For even more book club questions:

Book Pairings

For more like An American Marriage:

I sincerely hope this book review of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones inspires you to pick up this important book and/or continue to learn more about helpful negotiation tactics.

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