Celestial and Roy are newlyweds in An American Marriage, a novel by Tayari Jones.
They’re just over a year into their marriage when Roy is wrongly accused of rape and imprisoned. Can their fledgling marriage survive after five years of prison?
In the beginning glimpses of their relationship, Celestial and Roy present a portrait of a couple where the passion burns hot. He proudly struts like a peacock as the head of the household. She flits around him like a bird, not quite finding the right place to perch.
While there’s no lack of passion, we see the potential for trouble. With his occasional infidelities, her career aspirations, and their inability to have important conversations without fighting, we’ll never know if they could have worked through their differences.
Prison changes a person, and it certainly changes a marriage. I’ll leave it to you to discover whether Roy and Celestial are able to come together again as different people. It’s fascinating to see the ways they change and wonder if those disparate souls can reconnect. And also wonder if they were ever truly connected to begin with.
An American Marriage provides not only a sense of the characters, but a firm grasp on setting and situation.
Through the dealings with their families, we learn more of Celestial and Roy’s individual character traits. And through the community, we see the perils of being an African American person in the wrong place and time.
We learn what it is to be Olive’s son, Grace’s daughter, Andre’s friend, Big Roy’s wife, a recipient of Davina’s kindness. Although the story revolves around Celestial and Roy, it doesn’t belong only to them.
The answers are not easy in An American Marriage. How do they know what the right thing to do is when there’s been nothing but wrong for five years? Their attempts are beautiful and heartbreaking.
Watch his book review of An American Marriage and other bookish videos on my Read Remark YouTube channel.
Published February 2018