Femme, I loved this book. It took me 8 hours to finish this book— I counted. Not because I was counting down the time, but I counted because I needed to backtrack where my time went since I spent it incapable of putting this book down.
Let me start by saying that I’m part of a book club. I like it just fine, but if I am being 100% honest, we don’t read enough of what I want to read… lol
We typically vote on books, and well, I think we have only read one of the ones that I wanted. That book was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.
If I am still being 100% honest, due to this book choice and the demographic of my book club, I probably won’t be choosing the book club selection anymore… lol. But let me say, I LOVED IT.
So, my book club, and anybody else that didn’t appreciate the writings of Tayari can go to hell. Harsh, maybe, but this book detailed a lot of what it’s like to be black in America. It was real. It was raw. It was beautiful.
Much like An American Marriage, this story spends a lot of time in incarceration. Lives are irreparably changed as a result.
A very well respected and connected couple are arrested in their restaurant, a community staple, after they are charged with fraud.
The thing about prison is that it affects more than just the prisoner, and our author did a great job exploring that.
Althea— one half of the imprisoned couple, and also pretty much the mastermind behind the fraud and embezzlement, never had it easy. Literally becoming a mother at the age of 12 when her own mom passed away, she learned quickly that life is hard.
Even though she knows and accepts that life is hard, it doesn’t stop her from wanting more. In her pursuit, she steals, manipulates, and abuses. No one is safe. Not even her own daughter, Kim. Which is incredibly heartbreaking.
Proctor— the other half of the imprisoned couple. Presumably a victim of circumstance, but convicted nonetheless.
He loves his girls, Althea included. He’d do anything for them, including love them at their worst.
Lillian— The youngest sibling of Althea, not even one year old when her mom passed away, quickly became the most resented when her father chose her to raise and none of his other children. His sole beneficiary in death, and the only child he loved in life, she struggled with the two versions of the man that she called dad.
Her familial relationships have always been rocky. Whether she was hiding from her brother, accepting the abandonment of her big sister, Althea, coping with the loss of her estranged husband, or becoming primary caregiver of her twin nieces, nothing ever seems to be or go right.
Her growth comes from letting go of people and things.
Viola— Althea’s younger sister and a therapist after her own heart, she hopes to help girls that struggle like her. Living with her eating disorder hasn’t been easy. It disrupts her life at the worst moments.
Named after her mother, a woman she barely remembered, didn’t stop the pressure that came from being raised in her family. The aftermath of everything
including especially the arrest leaves her grasping for control.
Joe— The only son of an abusive widower, rejected and angry. He finds himself having to answer for past wrongs and make amends beyond asking God for forgiveness.
The abuse that Lillian suffered by him is so haunting that she lives and suffers with that for years. His belief that he “dealt with it, so it’s done” is so… selfish and ultimately blocks him from gaining custody of the twins.
Kim— Constantly berated by her mother, Althea, in a moment of rage (or clarity), she reports her mom to the authorities for welfare fraud. Unbeknownst to her, this was the beginning of the end. Living in the aftermath of her decision, she’s rages internally and externally, keeping her aunt Lillian constantly on edge.
Viola/Baby Vi/V— The youngest of the twin set from Althea and Proctor. Passive, but also quietly battling being her mother’s favorite and watching her twin suffer under her mom’s wrath.
Just like her aunt Viola, she begins to use food (or lack of it) as a coping mechanism.
Though the story opens with Althea and Proctor being arrested, it’s truly about a family that could be from almost any small city in America, left to deal with generational trauma.