An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Celestial and Roy are happily entrenched in their first year of marriage when Roy is arrested for a violent crime he didn’t commit. Their lives are devastated, and as they learn to live across jail cell bars, they face crisis after crisis of loyalty, love, and loss. Tayari Jones’s novel is a living, breathing exhibition of class and racial privileges, and an authentic look at the dissolution of love.
After Roy is sentenced to prison for a twelve-year sentence, Celestial must make impossible choices. Her future is free and wide open, but does moving forward in life means leaving her husband behind? Their families rally behind them with support and wisdom, and their best friend, Andre, moves in a little too close for comfort. As Celestial and Roy’s marriage quickly becomes a triangle, all of the characters must make their choices and justify them, adapting to the hand that life dealt them.
The most incredible and challenging thing about Jones’s novel isn’t the character development (which is strong as hell), or the societal insight (which is on point as heck), but it’s the super unique pacing of the whole thing. The story is often told through memories, and since there aren’t any dramatic twists or surprises, it really is just a case study in the decline of a marriage. We know, either by context clues or our gut, that Celestial and Roy won’t stay together. Jones forces us to hear the narrative as the characters choose to tell it.
Her characters are flawed. I definitely don’t agree with Roy’s old-fashioned attitudes about womanhood. Celestial’s decision-making process is questionable at best. Andre’s intentions seem a lot less pure than he’d have us think. Jones has created a cast of real, stand-alone people. Their existence is so detailed and tangible; the author really has mastered the portraiture of genuinely strong characters.
An American Marriage is a heartfelt look at racism, union, fate, and love. As Celestial and Roy tell their journey, looking back in hindsight on their twisted path, they identify such dark truths about change within a marriage. Jones’ story runs deep with insight, and her characters’ story is wrought with refreshing wisdom.