Book Reviews

An American Marriage- Tayari Jones

‘I don’t know how I should feel about Celestial.’

That may or may not be the intent of Jones in this novel but it is certainly a popular opinion shared by readers.

An American Marriage welcomes us into the lives of three individuals as they navigate the Ins and out of marriage, relationship and friendship. Roy and Celestial are the American dream couple. They are newly married still basking in that wonderworld. He is an executive and on his way to becoming someone really important and she is a brilliant artist who is on the cusps of creating something really great. Then they go down south and Roy is arrested. The couple is ripped apart in the blink of an eye. A longtime friend, Andre, steps in to help heal the pain but brings with him more complications and more muddy waters to wade through.

This novel in its simplicity is about a marriage but on a wider scale, touches on an array of complex themes. The institution of marriage and what that looked like through many characters is at its forefront; sacrifice, acceptance, patience, respect. Through the protagonists, Jones presents an unusual love triangle in which no particular one person is at fault (My opinion here, you may feel differently after you’ve read it). It is messy, it is real and if you (read: If I) were confronted with the same dilemma you probably would act the same way.  Even as many readers place this as the main topic when talking about this book, I do believe the portrayal of black men in America is secondary since it is how the characters live thereafter that was the broader story.  I do believe Jones purposefully omit the race of the accuser and did not give step by step accounts of the trial proceedings because a black man going to jail in the south is not the book that she has written.  This is not to say we are completely ignoring the penal system in Alabama or that the statistics of black men incarcerated for a crime they did not complete is not high.  It’s just that there are so many things in this book that you will be angry about that you could actually save your indignation for real-life events instead.

sometimes when you like where you end up, you don’t care how you got there.

Jones writing is rich, eloquent. Her prose is well developed and evokes ranges of emotions. I was a wreck reading through most of Roys letters, reading Celestials inner monologues, going through Andre’s thoughts and by the end I was mostly I was in tears. You are drawn into the lives of the characters and become invested since the very first page.

This book was all over my Bookstagram feed and I am so happy I gave in and got it. It certainly lived up to its hype and I truly recommend that you go ahead and give it a read.