An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Published: February 6, 2018
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 5-17, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.
An American Marriage is a difficult novel to read and this is because Jones seems to have gotten everything in the story as realistic as it could be. Married around 18 months, Roy is accused of assault and rape then sentenced to twelve years. And yes, Roy is in fact 100% innocent. After five years served, Roy’s conviction is overturned and he will be coming home. But things have changed.
The novels capture many things including being torn between a spouse and parent, how little we may actually know about a spouse going into a marriage. Also brought out in the novel are race and class differences, and traditions. Life was not perfect for Celestial and Roy and this accusation uproots and changes everything. At first they communicate via letter, but then things stop. Roy is stuck in the inside of prison while Celestial is still outside living life. And that begins to center around her childhood friend Andre, who was also the best man in their wedding.
Most of the novel centers around this love triangle and what direction(s) it may go. We never know what life will put us through, what may happen, and how we react. You will never know until you find yourself in a particular situation.
This is a gritty and raw read, and I was not sure where the ending was going, but based on each character’s thoughts and actions, it seems like a realistic and authentic ending. Whether you agree with what each of the three main characters did, the ending was satisfying and the novel keeps you thinking, whether you are happy with the endgame decisions or not of the characters.