Tayari Jones’s book An American Marriage may have come out in 2018 but its force and resonance is still as strong to this day. I got a chance to meet Jones this month at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai and I was reminded of the love story between the novel’s main characters Celestial and Roy.
February is significant for many reasons (and this one’s a leap year too!): it’s Black History Month and the (dreaded or eagerly awaited) Valentine’s Day. In the spirit of these two celebrations, I thought of revisiting Jones’s An American Marriage and see if the reading and blogging community also thought of the same thing.
“But how you feel love and understand love are two different things.”Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
The novel is about the lives of a newly married couple, Roy and Celestial, trying to live the American Dream, both at the peak of their careers. In an unfortunate turn of events, Roy is imprisoned in spite of his innocence. His only crime: being black. The two struggle to maintain their relationship as Celestial’s career takes off, while Roy commits his 12-year sentence.
The rest of their love story unfolds in epistolary form, as we get glimpses of their marriage and their respective emotional states through the letters. Heartbreaking for the most part, the letters illustrate the toll of distance and separation on their relationship. Celestial finds solace in Andre, a childhood friend and the best man at their wedding.
When Roy’s sentence is reduced to five years instead of twelve, he sought to repair his relationship with Celestial. But what could’ve been a jubilant reunion only broke hearts, as they both come face-to-face with their new realities.
An American Marriage captures the myriad of ways that we are held captive and set free by the choices we make, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. While the focus was on the marriage of Roy and Celestial, it also portrayed the jarring reality of racism and the prison industrial complex – the emotional toll, the separation, the heartbreak.
After seeing Jones speak, I wanted to see what other bloggers and reviewers thought of. Check out what the community has to say:
“I have less than 100 pages left of my current read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and I’m enjoying it so far! ? It’s not what I initially expected the book to be like but I didn’t have too many expectations as I tried to avoid reading much about it beforehand.”
”This book tells the story of this young African American couple, and when their relationship was suddenly put to test after the husband was sentenced for a crime he did not commit.
“I knew from the moment I started reading this book that Roy and Celestial story will stay with me for a very long time. It was a tough book to read mainly because of some really frustrating and heartbreaking turn of events in here but it was indeed a very well-written and thought-provoking story. It made me so emotional. I was angry, sad, conflicted and heartbroken. I’ve never read anything like it and this book deserves all the stars! Highly highly recommend. “
“I really enjoy reading this book. I love Tayari’s writing style. I felt so bad for Roy. Everything he work hard for was taken away because of a crime he didn’t commit. Then on top of that, his wife wasn’t being loyal or standing by his side. Overall this was a great book!”
“Has anyone read this? What did you think? It’s Black History month and supporting some black authors this month. Forgot I had this on my Kindle. Starting it tonight!”
“I hope I’m not the only single person that loves Valentine’s Day.
I’ve been in this reading slump for the last 2 weeks. I wanted something to put me in the mood of love so I decided to start ‘An American Marriage’ written by Tayari Jones (TBR list) since I’ve seen great reviews on it. I made myself read at least the first chapter to help me out the slump. I wanted to read something that dealt with romance, partnership, love, forgiveness, and what-ifs. And I can tell from that one chapter that this book is going to give me all the emotional reactions that come with the feeling of Love just in time for the 14th.
Just hope I don’t text an ex.”