An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

An American Marriage recently won the woman’s prize for fiction, a story surrounding a couple and what happens to their marriage when the man is put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.


The narrative is split into three, with the most time being given to the husband (Roy) and his wife (Celestial). The third narrative stream is that of Celestial's best friend, Andre. I think this worked, although I didn’t see it as wholly necessary that we have Andre’s perspective. It didn’t add a huge amount to the novel and I didn’t find his voice very distinctive. His perspective was sometimes interesting, though and his own portions in the book were minimal.


The disintegration of a marriage was the real star of this book. It didn’t happen quickly, but was gradually fed to the reader making it very believable. I found both Celestial and Roy very authentic and could almost feel Roy’s frustration at being locked away and unable to actively participate in events that were impacting his life.


What I really liked about this book is the unapologetic way it handled itself. Celestial made choices I completely disagreed with, but I could still empathize with her. This shows a real skill the author has in forming characters. Roy was fantastically portrayed as well. I sensed the change in him after his time in prison. It would have been unrealistic to have him as the same man when he came out of prison as when he went in, but this didn’t happen. He was different in subtle ways and I could understand Celestial’s apprehension towards him.


A deft character study concerning a topic that needs more attention. I highly recommend it.