An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

american_marriageAn American Marriage
By Tayari Jones
Publisher: Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616201340
Pages: 308
Genre: Contemporary


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. 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.

My Thoughts

Contemporaries are a real mixed bag for me. I tend to either love them or hate them. And for that reason, I pick them up a little less frequently than other genres. But when I do stumble upon those that manage to win me over, it is generally a very rewarding experience. However, with that said, my relationship with An American Marriage was a complicated one. For that reason, I am favoring brevity for this particular review.

The blurb is very sufficient so I am refraining from a recap.

Initially, I was drawn to An American Marriage with its alternating perspective narrative and promising synopsis. I welcomed the opportunity to explore this challenging story through both sides of the party. I anticipated an emotional journey that would leave me feeling better for having taken it. But it was not long before I found myself disenchanted. And being honest (I always am), I attribute this to my lack of interest in the main characters. Celestial disappointed me with her less than convincing commitment to the relationship, even in the early stages. My relationship with Roy was complicated. He often failed at times to solicit any real emotion from me as reader regardless of his hardships, yet I did want him to persevere.

The writing was fluid and enjoyable but never managed to successfully capture the full sincerity of the situation. This was a story I wanted to weep over. I wanted to feel the heartache of Celestial and Roy’s challenges and that just did not happen. While the narrative was clear and the story unfolded with ease, it simply failed to obtain the complexity and depth I craved from this scenario.

I respect Tayari Jones for tackling such pertinent and powerful themes, but in the end, I desired something more than I received. With protagonists (particularly Celestial) that felt one-dimensional at times and an unwavering pace, I found myself unable to fully appreciate An American Marriage in the sense that I felt I should have, but I was still compelled to see Roy’s story through to the end. I have no doubt this book will find a large audience, unfortunately, I am just not part of it.

*This book includes themes of rape, wrongful conviction, and incarceration.

tea cup

Serves well with your favorite rooibos blend.

Grab a Copy:  Book Depository

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Happy Reading,


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55 thoughts on “An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  1. I almost never read a book club book (Oprah), they’re just not my type of book.

    I went through my GR books to see what contemporary book I could suggest. Of the ones I found, they were all about books lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I really tend to space a lot of my contemporaries out. This was one that I picked up before realizing it was her selection. It was a BOTM purchase. But it worked, because a challenge prompt was to read a book from a celebrity book club 🙂 unfortunately it just was not able to convey enough emotion to carry the story for me.


  2. Too bad it didn’t work for you! This was a 5 star read for me even though I didn’t love the characters. The literary style writing and theme of the book, and the epistolary writing between Roy and Celestial fascinated me in a purely literary analytical way, I admit that this will be a book I’ll be teaching in my Comtepory Literature class next semester. There’s so much to analyze in the narrative and writing style that it makes for excellent teaching material.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wanted to love it. I really did haha. But I admit that even with the themes that I admired so greatly and an appreciative narrative, I could not move past how one dimensional Celestial and Roy were for me. I felt this book should have left me wanting to discuss it and heavy with emotion. Unfortunately, neither happened. It is great to know you had that connection! 🖤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, well we don’t always connect to the same book no matter how much we want to. The characters I didn’t love either, so I have to agree. I more connected with the writing and the themes are perfect for teaching purposes. I find myself when reading almost doing so as two people…one with my instructor hat one analyzing everything for context, literary analysis, structure, theme, etc, and the other for pure pleasure. Some books I give 5 stars based on a mixture of those and some on just pleasure. It is sometimes odd bringing the two together. Literary fiction often gets dissected the most, (it doesn’t always mean it was my favorite read though 😉 ) ❤

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I should have said it was for my Interpreting Literature class, and I pick a theme for each semester/class. I’m doing social injustice for one class, so I thought this would work well. We’re also going to read The Hate U Give, which I loved and I hope will make a big impact. I’ll let you know! My migration theme from last semester went will and I’m doing it again this semester with another class, but I’ll be very interested to see how some of the literature is interpreted in light of the current political climate. It’s always interesting to see! 💚

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I think this is the first less-than-fangirling review I’ve seen of this book. I’ve mostly seen it on “best of” lists. Sorry it didn’t work for you. I’m on a waitlist for it, but it’s a massive list, so who knows when I’ll get to read it. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I do hope you are able to fully enjoy it Aj! The themes and story are an important one and she clearly has a talent with the written word. It is fluid and the narrative seamless. It was the characters that failed to pull it together for me. Maybe for you it will be the opposite 🖤


  4. Ah man, that’s a shame but I do really like this review. I keep seeing this everywhere and haven’t paid a lot of attention to it because I usually prefer to wait til the hype is over. The story sounds interesting but if it isn’t executed in the right way, I’ll probably give it a miss.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. aaand, it just comes to show you how much characters mean in a story. I noticed someone above comment that even thought they loved the story, they also didn’t feel all that much for the characters themselves. I also know that like me, you also keep the character element to high value in a book! Sorry this didn’t work out for you but I enjoyed the review nonetheless 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So sorry to hear this one didn’t work for you. Although I think you’ve perfectly articulated what can make or break literary fiction: the characters. Feeling connected to the main characters almost always determines if I’ll like novels that fall under that umbrella, regardless of the story or quality of writing. Especially when you’re reading about things that can happen every day, to anyone, it’s important to be given a reason to care about the specific people going through them in a book. It’s just a shame that didn’t quite happen here. Lovely review, as always ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much JJ! It is a shame as the themes in this one are so valuable and I am thrilled it is still well received by the majority of readers. I would be willing to attempt her work again (I believe I have an upcoming book of hers on my tbr) as the writing is very fluid and the alternating narration seamless. However, as you say so well, the characters were the downfall here. I needed more depth and to feel more complexity.


    1. The problem is that it should have been sad but did not feel sad enough if that makes sense? The characters were too flat for me and took too much away from what should have been a very meaningful experience. But you are so right about contemporaries. I think that is why I pick them up less than other genres ❤


  7. I’ve had this one on my radar, but after your review I’m not sure if it would be for me either. Not being able to connect to the main characters in a story like this always has mayor consequences… Wonderful review. ❤


    1. Really? I think I must have been reading the wrong reviews when I picked it up haha. The ones I had initially encountered were rave. I did find a few fellow bloggers though who agreed about my thoughts on the lack of emotion and flat characters. And consensus is that Celestial is least liked 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Contemporaries are difficult because what makes them good is the characterization. They can’t solely rely on a plot or different aspects like the world building in fantasy or the police work in crime fiction. Thank you for this great review. The blurb had me intrigued but I think the potential wasn’t fully used here!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it is very likely that a couple that haven’t been together long and who face a separation like that for five years would drift apart. Not sure if I would want to read about it though. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like how you went back to writing a full essay review to convey your feelings about this book. Sorry to hear it didn’t work out, and I guess characters can really make or break a book, huh? 😀 Great honest review, Danielle!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This book sounds like something I´d read in a heartbeat. But if emotional depth is missing from what SHOULD be a highly emotional struggle then what´s the point in even starting to read?

    I´m sorry this read wasn´t for you. I feel your pain, though. I have the same problems while reading contemporaries. 80% of them are down right flat, missing all the eccentials. Fab review, my dear ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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