An American Marriage [Book Review]

August 3, 2018

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Black text over a bare gold tree against a blue background

Genre/Categories: Fiction, African-American, Cultural Heritage, Family Life, Racial Injustice

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Celestial and Roy are newlyweds living in the New South. While Celestial is an aspiring artist, Roy is a young executive. Early in their marriage, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime he didn’t commit. Can their marriage survive the tragic circumstances and the separation? Soon after incarceration, Celestial begins to accept comfort and companionship from Andre, her childhood friend and Roy’s best man at their wedding. When Roy is released from prison five years later, he expects to pick up his life where he’s left off, but a great deal has changed. This is a thoughtful and heartfelt story of love, marriage, family, and friendship, of hope and heartbreak, of loss and starting over.

Amazon Rating (August): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

At first I was reluctant to read an Oprah Book Club selection because of the hype and I was concerned that it might be primarily an issues driven book. However, when my IRL book club chose it for our August read and after reading some positive reviews from respected bloggers, I became more interested. An American Marriage is probably the most surprising good read of the year for me …… I’ve been disappointed before by books that don’t live up to their hype. This one has likely earned a spot on my favorites of the year list.

Themes. If you’ve followed my reviews, you know that one element that endears me to a book is its themes. An American Marriage is filled with relevant themes such as the importance of fathers (absent or present), sustaining marriage through difficult times, troubling incarceration rates of young African Americans, women setting aside traditional roles, stigmas attached to women whose husbands are incarcerated, educated middle class young African Americans and their views of community and family, southern traditions, etc. Issues are presented in this story, but it’s not an issue-centered read. I appreciate what the author says about her writing:

“My mentor used to tell me, ‘Write about people and their problems. Don’t write about problems and their people.'”

This is what I loved about this story….it’s about people and their problems and not simply a vehicle for the author to promote opinions or agendas.

Characters. This is not a story filled with all likeable characters. Yet they are authentic, realistic, and well developed. We see their positive and negative attributes and understand their motivations as the story progresses. Throughout the reading, I was unable to predict how this story would resolve and this kept me engaged until the last page.

Recommended. I highly recommend this easy reading, engaging, realistic, and heartfelt story for readers who are looking for a contemporary, diverse read with relevant and timely issues. An American Marriage would make an excellent book club selection and I’m eager to hear what my IRL book club thinks next week.

Own Voices: If you are an Own Voices reviewer, I’d love to read your review. Please link in comments.

 My Rating: 4.5 Stars.

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An American Marriage

An American Marriage Information here

Meet the Author, Tayari Jones

Tayari JonesTayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, she is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


Is American Marriage on your TBR or have you read it?

What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy reading diversely?

If you’ve read An American Marriage, how did you feel about the ending?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

Links I Love

Counting the days until Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society releases on Netflix! August 10!

People who read books live longer!

My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read more than half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)

Looking Ahead:

 This week I’m reading The Boat People from my Summer TBR and I am eager to bring you a review on Friday.

the boat people

The Boat People Amazon Information Here

Let’s Get Social!

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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

The book covers are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



  1. About “An American Marriage”… I, too, was kept guessing about how it would end and enjoyed the letter exchanges as a way to move the story along through the characters. I focused on what commitment meant to each character and to the enduring marriages… and should you chose someone who was a “ known fit” and comfortable, like Andre was? The “ lead” couple weren’t a good fit… they didn’t need each other. They may have been in love, but they weren’t a fit for marriage. The ending was what it needed to be…
    Gail Spear

    • I thought the letters worked well too! I thought exploring each character’s flaws was enlightening and realistic. Eager to discuss this at book club! It was a great selection! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Glad to read your review Carol. Have this book sitting on my nightstand from the library– but first I have to finish next months lit group book (The Alice Network– just OK and Long!!) You’ve made me more excited to dig in to An American Marriage. Love your reliable recommendations.

    • My book club met last night to discuss it…… we all enjoyed it but thought Celestial was an unlikeable character. It’s among my fav reads of the year. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks as always for following along and your generous comments!

      • I’m trying to get to it before the library wants it back!! –I’ve read my share of unlovable characters, I guess. Just people! xox

      • I should clarify……she’s not seriously unlikeable….just a bit spoiled and commitment is not her strongest trait. I did appreciate the author’s creation of well developed characters including flaws…..very much regular people! It’s a fairly easy reading book so you’ll probably be able to read it quickly.

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