I wasn’t a fan of this book by Tayari Jones. I read it for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2018 for the Oprah’s Book Club requirement. I frequently like the books Oprah selects, which is why it was tricky for me to find one I wanted to read that I hadn’t already read. There was so much hype around this book that I decided to take a chance on it and listen to the audiobook.
I was not impressed.
It’s about Roy, Celestial, and Andre. Each character gets to narrate some chapters and the audiobook used two narrators: one for Roy and Andre, and one for Celestial.
Roy and Celestial have been married for all of one year before Roy is falsely accused of raping a woman and I just realized as I write this how awful it is given the current environment. I listened to the audiobook months ago, long before Dr. Ford’s letter to Senator Feinstein was leaked. Having watched Dr. Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s emotionally manipulative display, followed by all those cowardly Republicans saying they believed Ford, but not really, gives this book an entirely different feel.
Roy never doubts that the poor woman was raped, but he also knows (and the reader knows) he’s not the guilty one. This kind of story is the kind that gives credence to those who want to have their cake and eat it too by saying that they believe “someone” attacked Ford, but they don’t believe it was Kavanaugh (even though his behavior in the courtroom was unprofessional, disrespectful, belligerent, privileged, and exactly the type of behavior abusers exhibit when they get caught).
It also gives credence to all the white men now saying they’re scared that not confirming Kavanaugh would have meant that just an accusation is enough to convict a man of sexual assault and that it’s a scary world when a rich white man can get punished for a crime he never committed – never mind all the black men who get convicted of crimes they never committed, which is what this book was really trying to get at.
Of course Jones couldn’t have known any of this Kavanaugh fiasco was going to go down shortly after her book was published. Not to mention the fact that her rape victim is a white woman, while her attacker is a black man, which is very different from the Kavanaugh situation of a white woman accusing a white man. Nevertheless, there are just too many similarities for me to be comfortable with this right now.
To be clear, I didn’t really like the book even before Ford’s letter was leaked. While Roy is in prison doing someone else’s time, his mother dies and his wife breaks up with him (although she does not send him divorce papers, which he takes to mean she doesn’t really want to end their marriage). She takes up with her life-long friend, Andre, who proposes to her shortly before Roy is released from prison. Roy hears about it, but decides to try to go patch things up with his wife (after first stopping to have sex with another woman – another woman who explicitly asks him what his marital status is and he deliberately avoids answering her, then when she gets upset later, he brings up the fact that he never answered as his defense. I hate him so much.)
It seems like the premise of the book is saying that Roy getting thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit ruined their marriage, but I find it hard to believe they were ever going to make it. He was a cheater and their marriage had problems even before their first anniversary. Andre said it best when he was mulling over how best to present their engagement to Roy. He said they couldn’t blame it on Roy’s arrest because that would make their relationship seem circumstantial, which it wasn’t.
Also Andre claims to be Roy’s best friend, but he had sex with Celestial when he knew she was still married to Roy, so I really can’t get on board with any of these characters.
Overall I thought this book was pretty well written but Jones sure does like her similes. I’m OK with that up to a point, as long as it remains in the prose. But when you have characters saying things like “it was as clear as rain on a window” – NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT!
What did you read/listen to this week? Anything else that hit too close to home after recent current events?