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The Untelling
The Untelling
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BOOK DETAILS

Tayari gives an overview of the book:

When Aria Jackson was nine, a car accident killed her father and baby sister, forever destroying her family’s secure middle-class life. The tragedy left her elegant mother, her rebellious sister, and Aria herself wounded by grief, rage, and guilt. Caught between her mother’s bitter dissatisfaction and her sister’s efforts to distance herself from the family altogether, Aria grew up alone, despite sharing a crowded home with her mother and sister. At age twenty-five, Aria has created a meaningful life for herself, living in a not-quite gentrified inner-city neighborhood, teaching literacy to teenaged girls. For the first time in her life, she has both a best girlfriend in whom she can confide and a boyfriend who offers her love and respect. When Aria discovers she may be pregnant, she is seduced by the promise of family, the lure of a normal life, and the dream of a...
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When Aria Jackson was nine, a car accident killed her father and baby sister, forever destroying her family’s secure middle-class life. The tragedy left her elegant mother, her rebellious sister, and Aria herself wounded by grief, rage, and guilt. Caught between her mother’s bitter dissatisfaction and her sister’s efforts to distance herself from the family altogether, Aria grew up alone, despite sharing a crowded home with her mother and sister.

At age twenty-five, Aria has created a meaningful life for herself, living in a not-quite gentrified inner-city neighborhood, teaching literacy to teenaged girls. For the first time in her life, she has both a best girlfriend in whom she can confide and a boyfriend who offers her love and respect.

When Aria discovers she may be pregnant, she is seduced by the promise of family, the lure of a normal life, and the dream of a fresh start. Then everything changes in ways she never anticipated. As she mediates between her past and her altered reality, she unearths secrets about family and friends and searches for the courage to divulge one heartbreaking revelation about herself.

Poignant, evocative, and luminously insightful, The Untelling speaks of the truths we hide even from ourselves, the circumstances that can either undermine or restore us, and the transformative power of examining all that we keep untold.

tayari-jones's picture

This is a novel which I wrote three times before I finally got it right. Each time, I'd finish a draft, I would sit back and say, "That's it. I'm finished." But the story still gnawed at me. One thing I have learned about writing stories, if the characters are still haunting me, then I am not finished yet. Deadlines came and deadlines went, but the story wasn't yet complete, there was some clasp that was not yet fastened, some string left dangling. So I returned to my writing table again and again until the book was finished.

Sometimes I wonder if this novel was so hard to write because this time, the subject matter is family and the challenges of this story are questions of courage and forgiveness. For me, kinship has always been a baffling concept which has become more baffling as I have become a woman, contemplating the idea of my own family. Forgiveness has not been my strong suit either. I am not exaggerating when I say that I until quite recently, I still held a grudge against a second grade teacher who did me wrong. So, in order to write a book about forgiveness, I had to figure out how to forgive. To write about family, I had to embrace my own relatives. And to write about courage, I had to learn to be brave.

Aria Jackson, the main character of this book, is a black women whose life isn’t turning out quite the way that she had hoped. Writing her character was difficult. I kept wanting to take the easy way out—to make her an exceptional person, a role model on paper. But instead, I worked hard to be honest, to keep her true to what I know about human nature: that we are all vulnerable; that we lie and feel bad about it; and that many of the terrible things that happen to us are not our fault. Like all of us, Aria wants what she cannot have. She is more wounded that she would ever admit. But like all of us, she has the tools to change her life. The only question is whether she will be brave enough to try.

About Tayari

Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where she spent most of her childhood with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria, West Africa. Although she has not lived in her hometown for over a decade, much of her writing centers on the...

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Published Reviews

Dec.30.2011

Populating this absorbing novel is a vivid cast of characters, each with his own story. Raleigh, the bigamist’s best friend and a substitute father to the girls, has forever been in love with Gwen, the...