Roy and Celestial are newlyweds with everything in life to look forward to. Roy is a business executive on the rise ready to officially lock down his wife by starting a family. Celestial, on the other hand, is an artist. After much support and encouragement from Roy, she makes a business of selling her unique handmade dolls. All of that upward mobility comes to a screeching halt after a trip to visit Roy’s parents in Louisiana. Roy, accused of a heinous crime he did not commit, is sentenced to 12 years in prison barely a year and a half into their marriage.
Celestial isn’t the marrying type. She hasn’t even fully embraced her new role before her husband is snatched away and incarcerated hours away from her home in Atlanta. Supported by her wealthy parents, her childhood best friend Andre, and even Roy’s parents Celeste tries to pull her life back together. Unfortunately, those ties only complicate her position with her absentee husband. Roy struggles with prison life while uncovering a huge family secret. Celestial struggles to be the wife she is expected to be by Roy, his parents, and herself. The effects of her decisions eventually ripple through the lives of everyone involved.
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Let me start by saying Tayari Jones did an amazing job of representing black life in America. An American Marriage is filled with characters I know in real life. Roy could be any one of my cousins or uncles. His story is similar to so many of their personal trials. And Celestial could be any one of their wives or baby-mamas that did unsavory things while they were incarcerated. And heaven knows we’ve all had an Andre.
If Tayari Jones had pitched An American Marriage as a true story I would have believed it. Roy’s mom even lives in my hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana for a brief period of her life. Roy’s choice to leave Louisiana so he could ‘make it’ in Atlanta is one shared by many of my own family members. Atlanta is a Black Mecca. Black people often head there with hopes of success and prosperity. This fact lends to the credibility of the story as well as the relatability of the characters.
All In All
I’d recommend An American Marriage to anyone. I love that this book is unapologetically black without coming off as a “black book”. Marriage being hard is a universal truth and the divorce rates in America proves it. The relationship struggles addressed are true to all people, even if the particulars are slightly different.
Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below.