Review: Literary

Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This review will contain no more spoilers than you will find in the official description—though, I must warn you, the description gives away the events of more than half the book. However, if you’re looking for a book that keeps you reading for the plot, then this may not be the book for you. This is simply a story about three people, and time.

Summary

Roy and Celestial had only been married a year when Roy was sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The young couple are certain that they can weather this, but time says otherwise. When Roy’s sentence is at last overturned, 5 years have passed, and Celestial must choose between the life of her past, or the life of her present.

General Thoughts

This book was remarkable to me: the storyline, if told to me dryly, would have not compelled me to read it, much less enjoy it. It is entirely a credit to Jones’s ability as a writer that she drew me in and held me there from the first page to the last. Her voice is powerful and engaging, and her ability to weave complex characters in complex situations is one I deeply admire.

It was also remarkable to me that she wrote a book on such a dark, sad topic, that nonetheless had me closing the book with a smile on my face. Yet I didn’t feel cheated of any of the gravity that comes with the topic of choice, and the situation being depicted.

I take my hat off to Jones.

On Love Triangles

As you may know if you follow my reviews or have checked out my review request page, I am not a fan of love triangles in general. However, I do say that it can be done well—and this, I thought, was done well.

Because just as this isn’t really a story you read for the plot, it is also not really a love story, or a love triangle story.

Celestial

Jones has a powerful voice. Celestial, Roy and Andre all have chapters from their perspectives, and they are distinct. However, there was never any doubt in my mind that this was, at its core, Celestial’s story. Not merely because she is the center of the love triangle, but because she felt the most well-rounded, and the least defined by other people and circumstances. I don’t mean to imply that the events of this book don’t have a strong effect on her—they do. All of the characters are changed by these events. But from the beginning, Roy puts himself in certain boxes—the provider, and the self-made man, for a start. Andre’s story—within the text, at least—is almost entirely about his relationship with Celestial.

Celestial, meanwhile, is more than who she is to Roy, or who she is to Andre, or her job, or even all of these things combined. She is an independent woman who knows her own mind, though that mind may change over the years. I love that.


 

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