Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
"A marriage is more than your heart, it's your life."
This book has been everywhere. It was my February Book of the Month pick; it made Oprah’s Book Club, and it seems to be getting nothing but rave reviews. As I was reading the February BOTM book descriptions, I was intrigued by An American Marriage's description. Tayari Jones' An American Marriage is about a newly married couple, Celestial and Roy, whose lives are completely upended when Roy is convicted and sentenced to twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit. But as Celestial learns to cope without Roy, their marriage becomes strained, but everything changes when Roy is released early, after only serving five years.
Celestial and Roy first meet at Morehouse College in Atlanta where Roy is a student and Celestial is visiting her best friend Andre. But fast forward several years, when they reconnect in New York, and thus begins their relationship. Roy is originally from a small town in Louisiana, and Celestial grew up in Atlanta. But Roy is driven and is determined to make a lot of money in his sales job; Celestial is an artist and dollmaker. They dream of opening a shop in Atlanta to sell Celestial’s creations. But even through all of their love and happiness, they are still young newlyweds who don’t always agree. Both have very strong personalities and are incredibly stubborn. And it is even hinted that Roy may occasionally cheat on Celestial; that is never confirmed, but it is heavily implied. Despite their differences, you can see how much they do love each other in their own special way.
But when Roy is convicted for rape, their whole world shatters. Both Celestial and Roy are at a loss of what to do. We see their interactions during Roy’s incarceration through letters. Neither one can seem to get his or her point across without the other taking it the wrong way. So Celestial stops visiting and begins to find comfort in her best friend Andre, who also happened to be one of Roy’s good friends. When Roy is released after only five years, he must deal with Celestial's distance and figure out how to acclimate back into society.
An American Marriage not only looks at marriage and family, but it dives into incarceration, race, and even class. Through the different perspectives, we see different marriages, from Roy's parents to Celestial's parents and how that affected their children. Jones takes a look at incredibly complex issues through these convoluted characters. I read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy last year, and couldn’t stop thinking about it while reading about Roy’s time in prison and how it felt for him to be falsely accused and then eventually convicted. Just Mercy would make a great companion read to An American Marriage.
This is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. I already know this will be on my best of 2018 list, even though we're only two months into the year. Jones is an incredible writer, and I am excited to read her other works. Also, as an Atlanta resident, I really loved the references to things I see on a regular basis. I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone. I give it 5 stars!
Let me know what you thought about An American Marriage!