By: Tayari Jones
Published Year: 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Summary (Provided by 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. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.
What I thought
I was very nervous about reading this book. The summary eluded to very heavy subject matter and I’m not always good with reading books along this line. However, it was a book club pick so I didn’t really have much choice.
Celestial and Roy have been married just over a year when he gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. He is sentenced to 12 years in prison. Celestial stands by his side for about 3 years before she realizes that it’s too hard and that their marriage did not have the foundation to support these kinds of trials and tribulations. She ends up seeing someone else, but then Roy gets released after only 5 years in prison.
I’ll start with what I liked/what surprised me about this book. I thought that the story was going to start with Roy in prison and then go through their lives from there. I thought maybe there would be some flashbacks to how he ended up there and how their relationship was before. This story was not done this was and I enjoyed the way it was written instead. The story starts with a brief history of Roy and Celestial’s relationship, moves towards the arrest and trial, and then moves into a series of letters between Roy and Celestial while he is in prison.
I think what I appreciated the most is how easily this allowed me to get into this book. The subject matter was still heavy, but the way it was written was simple. By the time I started getting to the heavier/harder to read parts, I was invested in the story so I couldn’t put it down.
I also liked that the story was told from multiple perspectives: Roy, Celestial, and Andre. When telling a story like this, there are a lot of sides to the truth, so I think it was important that the reader got to hear from everyone.
Honestly, the heaviness of this book that I was most worried about, didn’t get to me until about the last 50 pages or so. At that point, I started getting angry, an irritated, and wanted to put the book down (and maybe never pick it back up). But, I was only 50 pages from the end! So I was able to push through. I am thankful that this book was only 300 pages because I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle it if it was longer. I am also glad that this was a book club choice because I need to talk about a lot of this.
What Book Club Thought
So I kinda screwed up and double booked myself this month. I wasn’t able to make it to book club to be a part of the discussion. I did get to sort of discuss it with one book club member but only briefly and we both agreed that it was a tough book to read and that neither of us were rooting for the love story.