Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy have everything going for them. That is until Roy is arrested and charged with a crime he did not commit. Sentenced to 12 years in prison, the couple struggle to hold on to their love and commitment to one another, and Celestial finds herself drawing closer to Andre, their close friend. Their situation is further complicated when Roy is released from prison and wants to start his marriage over once more.

As well as love, marriage and friendship, there were many other themes explored in this novel such as race, class and fatherhood, which made the novel seem much more epic than it was. Although I enjoyed the novel, it felt at times like it was doing too much for one novel, and some storylines needed a bit more room to develop.

This might have been because I was listening to the audiobook and it felt more like a Sunday afternoon play. It also had this slight soap opera feel to it, for instance when Roy by coincidence ends up sharing a prison cell with his biological father. I mean the odds! But that said I’m wasn’t mad at that particular storyline, but the Roy-Celestial-Andre triangle was as predictable as it was irritating. I know a lot of readers took sides of either #TeamCelestial or #TeamRoy but to be honest neither of them deserved a team. I felt a tiny bit sorry for Andre but frankly he made his own bed.

If anyone deserved a team it was Big Roy, Roy’s step-father who undoubtedly had the best line in the best scene of the novel when Andre comes to his place to pick up Roy on his release from prison. I lived for that scene and rewound it several times just to hear it all over again.

While I enjoyed listening to An American Marriage whether or not my experience would be different reading it remains to be seen. It’s a very thoughtful and intimate portrayal of relationship put to the test and how two people come to terms with who they truly are. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do.

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