Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 1st Edition edition (2018)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Contemporary, African Literature, Literary Fiction, Social Justice
Trigger Warning: Rape, Incarceration
I bought An American Marriage as a part of my January Book of the Month club box. All opinions are my own.
A year into their marriage, Celestial and Roy are excited about their future. Roy is a young business executive in charge of selling textbooks, and Celestrial is an artist about to make it big. All they want is a beautiful child to share their joy. However, everything goes array when, on a trip to visit Roy’s parents, the cops rip Roy out of their hotel room and arrest him for a crime Celestial knows he did not commit. Faced with 12 years of imprisonment, Celestial struggles with the idea of attempting to maintaining a marriage. Instead, she seeks comfort in her childhood friend, and Roy’s best man, Andre. But, when Roy’s conviction is overturned after five years, Celestial must decide if she wants to rebuild her marriage and learn to love Roy again.
An American Marriage was one of my most anticipated novels of the year and it did not let me down. A tragic love story that focused on the racial injustice of mass incarceration was everything I needed this Valentine’s Day. Told in the perspectives of Celestial, Roy, and Andre, An American Marriage shaped a modernized twist to the classic love triangle. Boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy is unjustly arrested for a crime he did not commit as he was with the girl the entire time, girl tries to visit boy in prison, girl instead finds comfort in her best male friend, etc. From the symbolic meaning of the cover art to the last paragraph, Jones constructed a beautiful masterpiece.
My favorite stylistic aspect of the novel was how at the end of Part 1, when Roy was in jail, the novel was told using the letters exchanged between Celestial and Roy. Jones easily could have gone on a tangent about Roy’s time in the penitentiary. However, the novel was not about Roy being in jail. The novel was about how jail affected Roy’s wife. By filtering Roy’s time through his letters, we were not provided any dramatic irony. We experienced Roy’s letters how Celestial would. I also believe Jones used this method to prevent from using any pathos when it came to Roy’s incarceration. Jones did not want the reader to presume Roy was the victim and Celestial was the bad guy. Real life is not black and white, and Jones did not want to provide us with a novel that reflected the same.
Overall, I rated An American Marriage 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. If you spot this novel in your local bookstore, I highly suggest you pick it up. I would have provided more in my review, but I don’t want to spoil the ending – which was creatively crafted. Jones depicted a story that was nothing like I have read before, but one I am sure was common for many American families dealing with the absences of loved ones due to incarceration.