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Book Review| An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

Imagine traveling to spend an ordinary Thanksgiving with your partner and family. After a satisfying meal followed by loving (and snarky) conversation, you scurry off to a hotel to cuddle, settle in for the night. Only, while you are asleep the police kicks in your door, drags you out of the room, slams you to the floor then charges you with rape.

An American Marriage is a fictional, yet all too real, story of the complexities created by being wrongfully accused and convicted of a crime. This story is not about the crime, the accuser, the conviction or prison life. This story focuses on the impossible decisions of those affected during the aftermath. It highlights that the wrongfully accused is only the center of the devastating destruction which then ripples to those beyond what a court room will ever see.

Roy, Celeste and Andre are middle-class African American friends living in Atlanta, Georgia. Roy and Celeste are married for a year and a half when this tragedy strikes their young marriage. Both families rally around Roy to help him during this catastrophic journey however Celeste struggles with being married to an innocent but invisible husband.

"Time is hard on a woman" ~Celestial Hamilton

The author, Tayari Jones, does a wonderful job of creating depth within the characters layering the progressive story with past events causing the reader to constantly reevaluate judgements. The novel is told in first person from the point of view of the three main characters and written in part epistolary (a novel written as a series of document/letters).

Chapter Synopsis:

(Chapter Title/ROTR digest)

Part One: Bridge Music

Roy/Introductions and The incident

Celestial/ The Incident and letters from prison

Part Two: Prepare a table for me:

Andre/ Offering comfort to Celestial

Celestial/ Reflections of marriage

Roy/ Getting out of prison

Celestial/ Black love is Black Wealth: Falling for Roy

Roy/ Falling for Celestial

Andre/ Reappropriating love

Roy/ A nourishing friend: "Are you still married?"

Celestial/ "...Pray[ing] for forgiveness for doing nothing wrong"

Roy/ Finding familial closure, uncovering secrets

Andre/ Parental wounds, advice and "I'm getting married"

Roy/ Goodbye to a nourishing friend

Celestial/ "Is it love or convenience?"

Roy/ Dear [biological] dad, going to re-claim my wife

Part Three: Generosity

Andre/ Roy we love you and one another

Celestial/ My husband is getting out of prison

Roy/ She didn't divorce me or change the door locks

Celestial/ Seeing Roy again after so long

Roy/ Seeing Celestial again after so long

Celestial/ "Time can be hard on a woman"

Roy/ Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning

Andre/ Spending the night with Big Roy

Roy/ Digging through the past in boxes

Andre/ "The third most terrible person in the world"

Celestial/ ...the intention of saving them both

Andre/ Love cannot change it's shape

Roy/ Giving our marriage another try

Epilogue/ Where we all belong

"It costs you to hurt people." ~ Roy Hamilton"

Tayari Jones, in this presentation of a long debated subject, toggles questions of recompense, loyalty, love, friendship and black life in America. This book is recommended for anyone in the mood for a good story and quality storytelling.

Happy Reading Friends!





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