Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

Publication date: March 7th 2019
Publisher: Oneworld (first published January 29th 2018)
Pages: 306


Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when 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 deeply 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 into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future.

Source: Goodreads


‘An American Marriage’ is award winning and was chosen by Oprah for her book club a couple of years ago. I’ve seen nothing but love for this book, so really wanted to give it a read.

“It was a wonderful feeling to be grown and yet young. To be married but not settled. To be tied down yet free.”

This is the story of Celestial and Roy, a young black couple from Atlanta. Roy and Celestial are living a good life, with steady jobs, a decent home and a lot of love. Then Roy is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison. This would be terrible for any couple, but for newlyweds, this is extra devastating.

This isn’t a court case / trial / prison kind of story though. Instead, the author chooses to focus the story on the relationship between these two people and struggles they go through during and after Roy’s incarceration.

I really enjoyed the first part of this book and I initially thought it was going to be a solid five stars from me. I loved the letters written between the couple and I felt that this was a really interesting and unique way of telling the story.

Unfortunately, this book went a little downhill for me in the second and third parts. I felt that at this point the story lost momentum and dragged a little, exploring areas that I didn’t feel added much to the overall picture. I’d probably have preferred if the story had delved a little deeper into the racial injustice side of Ray’s incarceration, his wrongful conviction or even to hear from the accuser.

Deep down this is a story of how going to prison affects whole groups of people, not just the individual who is locked up. It also looks at how one tragic event can change the course of your life in an instant, no matter how unfair that may be.

I liked it and I’d say it was a worthwhile read, but it wasn’t perfect for me.

Overall rating: “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones was a book of two parts for me. The first was compelling, the second not so much. I definitely didn’t hate it but it wasn’t my favourite either, sitting somewhere in the middle with 3 stars.

See my other reviews of books by Tayari Jones here:

9 thoughts on “Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  1. Hannah Celeste says:

    Nice review! I really liked this book, even the second and third parts, but I agree with you that the author could have explored the unfair imprisonment of Roy a lot more. I’ve even read reviews by people who say they don’t believe Roy was innocent!! I don’t agree with that, but it goes to show that the criminal injustice aspect of the book is so vague that people fill in the blanks with their own imaginations.. I wish it were less vague.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gilana @ gilreadsbooks says:

    I read this last January and I have to agree—the first part was compelling but it really dragged in the middle. I found myself uneasy also with the way Andre kept justifying his actions with Celestial… I was really rooting for Roy and I didn’t like seeing them sneaking around like that. Great review, Rebecca. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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