An American Marriage

An American Marriage book cover
By Calasandra Spray, Adult Services

Think of marriage. What binds the marriage you’re imagining together? What could break it? Tayari Jones takes a critical look at this in “An American Marriage,” when ordinary people are caged into an extraordinary circumstance.

Celestial is pragmatic. She keeps her expectations on a level that matches her needs. Roy is honest, raw, and above all idealistic. Newly married, these entrepreneurial characters are chasing the American dream. That is until Roy is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and is sentenced to 12 years in prison. 

The American dream comes crashing down around them as they become disillusioned in the wake of the American justice system. Using multiple perspectives, Jones confronts readers with complex and often contradictory characters who have needs, desires, hopes, and dreams.

This novel is messy. The characters are flawed, biased, and untrustworthy. It hurts to read as the characters dance between intimacy and violence. Their haunting story introduces a depth of conflict that reaches deeper than marital squabbles though, it’s important to keep in mind the true villains of the novel are racism and mass incarceration.

If you’re interested in the dynamic of marriage or the justice system, “An American Marriage” would be a valuable read. Jones examines the ideal of marriage, and then breaks it down into the raw emotion of reality. This work also shines light on the subjects of family, tradition, responsibility, racism, feminism, and being Black in the American south.


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