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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Psychotherapeutic humanities, Book, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


Book Review

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


An American Marriage is a novel about a young black couple who get married who are from different social classes. The wife, Celestial, comes from a wealthy upper class family while Roy comes from a working class family. They both are college educated but coming from different backgrounds seem to have different values, beliefs, and preferences.

Roy gets arrested and is falsely accused of rape and sentenced to twelve years in prison after the first year of his marriage to Celestial.

Celestial stops visiting Roy after about three years saying that she can’t live like she is, as a single woman, while Roy, her husband, is incarcerated. Celestial has taken up with Andre her childhood friend who also was Roy’s best friend and is the person who introduced Roy and Celestial to begin with. Roy is released after five years when his case is overturned on appeal. Roy’s homecoming to find that Celestial and Andre are planning to marry when Celestial sues Roy for divorce brings the plot, the love triangle between Celestial, Roy, and Andre, to a climax.

The ambivalence each character experiences about these love relationships creates the creative tension that gives this novel its appeal.

The subplot deals with the injustice of the criminal justice system as it pertains to prosecuting and incarcerating black men and the damage this does to families and the communities beyond the injustice done to the alleged offender.

Tayari Jones is a good writer but the story is a bit like a soap opera. The moral of the story is a muddle. Whether Roy and Celestial would have made a go of their marriage had Roy not been incarcerated is hard to tell. It may have dissolved anyway, but after a year of marriage the bond was not strong enough to weather the enforced physical separation.

Celestial and Roy had talked about having children but had put it off. Had they had children one would wonder if this would have made a difference.

Why the novel is entitled “An American Marriage” is not clear. What makes the marriage between Celestial and Roy “American” is never addressed. The dynamics of the plot involve an African-American couple, but would be similar if the couple were white, or Hispanic, or Asian.

Reading “An American Marriage” reminds me Stewart O’Nan’s novel, “The Good Wife” which has a similar plot except the wife is pregnant when her husband is incarcerated and she stands by him and raises their child for 28 years.

An American Marriage gets a 6.5 on the MBH 10 point scale.


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