WE'RE TALKING THE NEW OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE
JEREMY: Adrienne! I know you love Oprah, and I know you know I LOVE OPRAHHHH (read that using your best Oprah voice) … but do you do everything she tells you you to do? I know you might not love her mashed potatoes … but how about her book picks?
ADRIENNE: Girl, let’s get real, Lady O is usually not wrong with her fiction! I have read so many Oprah Book Club picks and no shame, they usually do what great books do, draw you the hell in and make it so you can’t put the damn book down. I just found this handy checklist where you can read all of O’s books and there are so many gems on here! Middlesex (swoon), Fall on Your Knees, Wild, We Were the Mulvaneys, I Know This Much Is True (one of my favorite books of all time)—like these are great books.
JEREMY: OMG. I LOVE LISTS. I’m gonna go ahead and be super dramatic and tell you Oprah taught me how to read. I mean I knew HOW to read obviously, but she got me reading books that I didn’t have to read for school … and then kept me reading after I graduated college. She made me a reader. That’s what I mean to say. I liked it before, but she really made me fall in love with reading. She has picked some CRAZY GOOOD books … and some real stinkers.
ADRIENNE: The only times I was giving O side eye was when she was picking Jonathan Franzen who is like pretty much everything I hate about white dudes, especially white dude writers. Jonathan Franzen is like what every white dude in my MFA was trying to be, like pretentious, boring, and mansplainy. In Freedom every woman was on antidepressants and inept and the men were all perfect and staring at birds. NOPE! She picked that fool TWICE. O, whatchu doing? She also had her phase when it was all “classics” and I’m not really here for that either. Like I’ll do that in Lit class, thank you very much. I don’t need to talk about Charles Dickens with my mom ever.
JEREMY: I hear you, but OMG I love Freedom AND The Corrections … even though he’s a garbage dump. LOL SHE ALSO PICKED SOME DUMB JUNK FROM BILL COSBY, Y’ALL. I CANNOT. LOL
ADRIENNE: GIRL. Do not even get me started on that dumpster fire Freedom. You are a feminist, I’m going to forget you ever used love and Freedom in the same sentence ever.
JEREMY: CACKLE CACKLE CACKLE … (lights candle in front of shrine to Gloria Steinem)
ADRIENNE: Also, remember when Oprah schooled James Frey over his A Million Little Pieces lies? That was dope. You don’t cross O. I would also like to say when I read that book, before the truth came out, I was like, this guy is full of shit, addicts don’t get their teeth pulled out with no novocaine because they’re addicts, who would believe that?
JEREMY: I also really love that book. I don’t care about the drama of all that mess. It was a good book, I didn’t care if it wasn’t real. It was SUPER good.
ADRIENNE: It has a great title and cover art. But he should've been like, maybe we should call this fiction before O sends it all over the world though. LOL.
ADRIENNE: Anyway! What did you think of her latest pick, An American Marriage?
::: WE'RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE NOW SO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT STOP READING, WE'RE NOT PAUSING FOR SPOILERS :::
JEREMY: I was super excited about it, because I’ve loved Oprah’s last couple of picks. The Underground Railroad was good, and I also enjoyed Ruby. She’s making me more familiar with African-American authors, which I love. I saw something on Facebook or somewhere that said try to not find out anything about this book just read it and keep your head down. That was good advice. It did make me think aliens were going to pop out and nab somebody, but I didn’t read much about the book before getting into it. Though … I read it in about a week, so there wasn’t much hiding time.
It got me right from the start. I loved the story of the couple and slowly learning about their families … and their secrets … WHEW I love a secret in a book. Also? I never trusted that Andre. Not once we learned he and Celestial had been friends since childhood. I’m like … ANDRE SOUNDS LIKE A GAY NAME I HOPE HE’S GAY IF HE MESSES THEM UP IMMA CALL OPRAH AND SCREAM.
ADRIENNE: I knew absolutely nothing about this book other than you said we were gonna read it and I love reading books with you. I feel like I haven't read a book that I've loved in a minute—you know, a book that makes you turn off the TV and take notice. The last books that did that for me came out last year and were also by African American female writers—We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Sam Irby and Hunger by Roxane Gay. The future is female and I am here for it!
JEREMY: MORE TRUTH.
ADRIENNE: Anyway, I loved this book. When the big turn came (can we just talk about this? Spoilers everyone stop reading if you don’t want to hear it) but when they hauled Roy off to jail I was on a plane to Los Angeles and I sat up in my seat like WHAT! WHAT HAS HAPPENED. And I'm looking around on the plane at everyone like, ARE YOU SEEING THIS, THEY'VE TAKEN ROY TO JAIL HOLY SHIT.
And then I couldn’t put the damn book down.
JEREMY: Yes! Let’s just talk about it, let's quit being babies. YASS. I was like leave that man alone he just went to get some ice. Which, you know, really slapped me in the face as a white person. I’m like oh my god of course I’m shocked because this probably wouldn't happen to me as a white dude. I love it when a book is like LOOK AT YOURSELF, GIRL.
I loved that moment. AND. I loved that we passed time right after that kick off with real live actual LETTERS. Remember those? It never occured to me that you couldn’t just email somebody in jail. It really helped to give you a DEEP sense of time and how it passes … especially under these circumstances.
ADRIENNE: I loved they way she deployed the epistolary sections (which so many authors do badly). But the letters had so much more impact than if she'd just stayed in narrative because the letters themselves demonstrated the impossible divide Roy and Celestial were up against. I just felt terrible for both of them, it was no one's faulty, but the situation was heartrending.
I loved loved loved coming to understand this world where duty is at the forefront—what you owe people because of the history of race and the current racial climate in the United States. I loved watching Celestial struggle with her duty. And Big Roy’s clear sense of duty. OMG there are so many things I loved here.
JEREMY: Yes to all of this! I also love that she only used the letters for a bit … and then switched back once Roy gets out of prison. I can’t get over how that really gave you a feel for time, and the little bits of communication you would get in prison … and you also got a picture of everything happening on the outside. Once he got out time felt like it sped back up. There was a definite sense of urgency the minute he was out and from there to the end of the book felt like … a straight shot to the finish.
Can we talk about two things? Do you think Celestial should have waited (like was that even real) and talk to me about how she handled everything right at the end. OH. AND WHAT IS WITH THAT TREE?
ADRIENNE: I knew immediately that tree was going to be a metaphor and a plot device, because girl, I got an MFA. Money well spent! JK JK JK JK. But an MFA will teach you to spot an objective correlative a mile away. And writers love to use a tree as an objective correlative. The tree is history, and past, and what’s immutable, and what’s sacred, and then breaking shit, railing against what cannot be changed, etc, etc. I thought it was all deployed well, but look, what I was really concerned about was Celestial’s car window and how her daddy was going to fuck up whoever cut down his tree.
JEREMY: HAHAHAHA lord, that tree! I was in too deep to see anything coming at me. When he took the axe to the tree I gasped and woke the dog. I really thought it was going to fall on somebody and kill them dead. I was ready for somebody to DIE! I felt like … wait … you’re going to just sorta chop the tree and not go all the way? KILL THAT TREE!
ADRIENNE: Back to the love triangle! From a writing perspective I thought that it was brilliant that she had Celestial choose Roy but still end up with Andre, where I wanted her to be. By "doing the right thing" and choosing Roy, we can forgive Celestial for ending up with Andre. But Roy was never right for Celestial! Should she have waited? I mean, I’m not really interested in waiting like a couple weeks for a dude, much less years.
JEREMY: I agree. Though, I have this loyalty thing with books. I know logically Roy wasn’t right for her, but I was so mad at her spoiled ass for not standing by him when what happened was not his fault. She really disappointed me there. BUT! I think the best was that Roy was a … can I call him a modern man … possibly even a feminist … he understood she wasn’t his, and he sent her back to Andre. EVEN THOUGH … we saw him have a fling with another woman 3 minutes before.
ADRIENNE: I think the best thing about this book was how vividly Jones evoked each character's perspective and dilemma. I felt so deeply for each of them and wanted them all to have what they wanted and what was best for them. Even the supporting characters—like how about Roy's mama? I loved her. Jones really was masterful in putting these characters in an impossible situation that evoked an entire history of racism in America and gender roles and expectations of duty. It was great. READ IT, Y'ALL.
JEREMY: There were twists and turns and so many surprises.I for real could not put it down, I loved it. Oprah done good.