I have been eyeing up and anticipating reading this book for what seems like years; everyone from Oprah to Reese Witherspoon has been touting it as a triumph, so when I got my hands on it, I couldn’t wait to begin. I’ll admit that I originally picked the book up last year and began reading it, but I wasn’t in the right headspace to really bite into it, so I put it down and only picked it back up in April 2019 and then I finished it in about 3 weeks!
The book begins as Roy and Celestial are making their way to Roy’s parent’s home in Eloise for a visit; they decide to spend the night at a hotel instead of his parent’s home, which is a decision they both will regret. As later that night, a woman Roy spoke to by the ice machine is raped in her hotel room and blames Roy as the perpetrator, this sets in motion a series of events. Roy is jailed for a crime he never committed just as Celestial’s career as a bespoke doll maker is taking off. Their marriage in its infancy, they are caught in a tug of war of emotions and choices, particularly after Roy is surprisingly released after serving 5 years only to come home to find out Celestial has moved on with one of his close friends, Andre.
Break it Down:
I’ll lay my cards on the table, I love Roy’s character; loved the way Tayari weaved him as ambitious, driven but all encompassing in his love for Celestial, so deeply I felt it and connected to it. I love how the book is based in modern America, but yet it almost had a “throwback” feel to it, like it could have been set in 1965, simply because of how they “sounded”, but also how Roy explained race and racism, it was done with such swag I loved it. His dialogue was like poetry, but he had standards and ambition, though does end up in jail and it is the pivotal moment for him and Celestial in their relationship, the details of his jail time is missing and almost allows Roy to remain human and maintain his dignity and he doesn’t get written like a stereotype. To me, if anything it adds an element of dimension to him, gives him perspective and lights a fire in him.
I will admit that by pages 111, I was not too keen on Celestial’s character, I found her distant and over dramatic; I can be sympathetic to the position she is in as her career begins to take off, her husband is then incarcerated and she’s battling with keeping up appearances with the life she wants, but I don’t feel like she supported him as much as she should have. Reading the book, it is so believable and almost tangible just how much Roy loves Celestial, yet I didn’t get the same “love” reciprocated from her towards him. I don’t know that I felt it with her and Andre either to be fair- and if I’m being honest I just didn’t like her character. Period. She was the epitome of a privileged Black woman and I found her hard to relate to and maybe that’s why I didn’t warm to her. She seemed like she was used to getting her way and didn’t consider what it was like for Roy in prison while her career rose and her life essentially moved on without him and seamlessly eased into Andre’s bed. Although, I have no issues with male/female friendships, I can’t help but feel that it was 3 in a bed well before it came out in the open and Andre was simply buying his time to be with Celestial. So while reading from Andre’s perspective towards the end, I did so 100% biased and judgmentally. The scene where Celestial was willing to allow Roy to lay with her, but she insisted he wear a condom really made me cringe and to be honest, I was irritated at Roy for even attempting to rekindle with her and especially further on when a couple days later they attempted to get back together. As Roy put it, he was one with her body and felt parts of her die as she attempted to give him what she thought he wanted, but he could tell she didn’t love him. Overall, I saw Celestial’s character as a coward, she barely saw her husband in jail and then hooks up with his friend and doesn’t have the courage to even TELL him after 2 years? I don’t care about all of the turbulent feelings she experienced, Roy deserved to know that she no longer loved him that way, but she avoided it and then almost orchestrated the whole brawl and ensuing meltdown by Roy to her the beloved family tree. Which if I’m being honest, that whole scene didn’t need to really happen, it left me scratching my head.
I found myself disappointed with how the book concluded, it left me with a snare on my lips and feeling so very sorry for Roy, I just didn’t like the fact that he crumbled and nearly begged to have his wife back, I ached for him- mostly because it’s something I’d never do. I wanted him to want her, but then realized that he was better off and essentially say beep you! I couldn’t relate to Celestial’s emotional tug between Roy and Andre, but I am aware that this is because I didn’t sympathize with her character at all. I also felt like the ending was somewhat rushed, it didn’t give as much detail compared to the slow weave of words earlier in the book. Celestial’s odd “break” up with Andre, Roy ultimately choosing Davina and returning to Eloe- all of these, I wished we were given more of the dialogue and more of how Roy was thinking/feeling, instead of finding out through their letters. At the same time, throughout the book, their correspondence was how the author chose to reveal vital details of the story to the reader, so I suppose it fits the brief.
The RnR Rating:
4 out of 5, I cant fault it- it was a great read and I blocked out so much around me reading this book, it’s worth 100% picking up.
Would I recommend the book?:
I would, despite not warming to one of the main characters, I still loved and enjoyed the way the book was written and the flow of the words, it was elegant and moving. Not all of life is a happy ending nor does it end the way we’ve always planned it and this book is a reminder of that. Life can get messy, but it’s no less beautiful. Have you picked this book up? What did you think of it?! Share and let us know!