Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
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.
An American Marriage is a hard novel to write a review for, because on the one hand I found it pretty difficult and, at times, unenjoyable to read, because it really struck a chord with me. On the other hand, it’s really well-written and examines Celestial, Roy and Dre’s personalities and relationships with each other so well, and I definitely found myself tearing up at various points in this, especially at the end, so it definitely packs some emotion in there!
It’s actually a fairly slow, uneventful read in that the story takes place over a very long period of time where, due to the very nature of the plot – Roy ends up in prison for a crime he vehemently claims he is innocent of – not that much happens, otherwise he’d be released from prison and he and Celestial could theoretically resume their married life from ‘before’. At times I felt my concentration drifting slightly because of this in the very middle of the book, but the pace then starts to pick up again as developments occur and character reveal more and more of themselves. I loved that this novel shows everyone to be realistic characters – they’re not perfect, they make mistakes and they certainly have their flaws.
Some aspects of a certain character (I won’t go into specifics here as to not give anything away) didn’t sit well with me – and I could go so far as to say they made me feel rather uncomfortable at times – and I felt the ending, although not to my liking because I was rooting for a certain outcome, was probably the more realistic kind. It felt a very true and authentic novel, and incredibly timely considering its content concerning Ray’s unjust incarceration and treatment by the police.
I definitely finished the novel feeling like I’d read something truly meaningful and also incredibly poignant, in a way I can’t adequately describe here (but am trying to!).
I’d definitely recommend An American Marriage – it’s not packed full of suspense or drama, but instead feels to me like a more muted, but just as powerful, novel exploring race relationships in the US and how so many black Americans face adversary in their everyday lives, as well as what it means to be married in today’s modern times and, of course, love.