Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

RATING: 3.8/5


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. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel. 


Firstly, congratulations to Tayari Jones for winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 with An American Marriage! We follow the story of Celestial and Roy, 2 black Americans who were married for just over a year when Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and is sentenced to 12 years in prison. This is a hard blow to Celestial and Roy’s marriage and their lives. We then follow the love triangle between Roy, Celestial and Andre (Celestial’s childhood friend and Roy’s best friend). Prima facie, this is a story about love and marriage. But it is more than that. It reflects the race-based injustice in America, social class, and the flawed judicial and prison system in America. The story was told mainly in the point of views of Roy, Celestial and Andre whereby Tayari brilliantly sets out the complex inner conflicts of these characters. And yes, Tayari’s writing is beautiful and sophisticated!

However there are a few parts which to me is nonsensical and confusing. Firstly, I can’t see how conveniently Roy’s biological father can be arranged to be in the same cell with Roy when he is in prison. I also can’t get certain choices that all three main characters made in resolving their struggles and inner conflicts. If these issues were resolved, I would have rated it higher. For now, its a strong 3.8/5 star rating from me and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book and I enjoyed Tayari’s writing a lot! I will definitely follow Tayari’s works in future.

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