Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

By Dr Li Tan

Type of book - Fiction. Great for switching off and forgetting all the MET calls for the day.

Ease of reading - Very! Good read during working or non-working week!

Portability - 320 pages, easily transportable.

Keep, shelf or donate - Definitely a keeper.

Confession, I do not read often. Fact, I have many non medical books on my book shelf, most of which I’ve read the first few chapters, and have subsequently abandoned due to my short attention span. How I have made it this far in my career, I have no idea.

I finished An American Marriage in 6 earth days, no word of a lie! When I first saw the title, a number of assumptions came to me and I literally began judging a book by its cover. “DINK”, “white picket fences”, “Kim K and Kanye”, “first world problems”. Rightly or wrongly, I assumed the story was centred around the privileged race in a love triangle, telling their sad love stories to convince the reader of their true intention. This book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019. But that didn’t mean much to me as I have many books on my shelf that have won literary prizes that I’ve read 2 chapters of! 

This book tells the story of love, and how the experience of love can change or grow with time, internal struggles and extrinsic challenges to relationships and when loyalty can sometimes be in conflict with beliefs, truth, trust and love. This book is not just a soppy love story though. The reader gets to know the main characters intimately: their thoughts, fears, wishes, values. After getting to know them, you would wish nothing but happiness for all. But does it end well for all?

From the Back Cover Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she struggles to hold on to the love that has been her centre. When his conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward – with hope and pain – into the future.


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