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An American Marriage: A Novel
An American Marriage: A Novel
An American Marriage: A Novel
Audiobook9 hours

An American Marriage: A Novel

Written by Tayari Jones

Narrated by Eisa Davis and Sean Crisden

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

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 is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned, and 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.

Release dateFeb 6, 2018
An American Marriage: A Novel

Tayari Jones

New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including An American Marriage, Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. A winner of numerous literary awards, she is a professor of creative writing at Emory University. 

Reviews for An American Marriage

Rating: 3.820014662756598 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Just after I downloaded this audiobook it was chosen as the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction winner. Oprah also chose it for her book club. So you can see that it has a lot of interest from some powerful women. Which is interesting because I don't know that Celestial, the woman in the story, comes off as a powerful woman.Roy and Celestial have been married for about a year when they travel to Roy's hometown in Louisiana. Roy has been keeping a secret about his paternity from Celestial (his mother had him as a teenager before she married Roy's step-father, Big Roy) Roy plans to tell Celestial about this fact and for this reason decides not to stay with his parents but check into a motel instead. The revelation of Roy's paternity almost devolves into a fight but Roy calls a time out and goes off to get ice. He meets an older woman who needs help getting back to her room and then he goes back to talk more with Celestial. The time out seems to have cooled down the emotions and Celestial and Roy make love and then fall asleep. In the middle of the night their door is broken down by police who charge Roy with the rape of the older woman he met at the ice machine. He is soon convicted and thrown in prison. Celestial swears to wait for him; she knows he has been wrongfully convicted because he was with her all night. Celestial goes back to her life as an artist in Atlanta. Roy and Celestial's letters to each other form the next part of the book and we see their relationship start to break down. Celestial's best friend and neighbour, Andre, confesses he has always loved her and Celestial realizes she loves Andre as well. When Roy is finally released from jail his life has been altered irrevocably. Is this an indication as to how fragile human relationships are? Should Celestial have waited for Roy? Is Andre (who was a friend of Roy's in college) wrong to declare his love for Celestial? Is Roy blameless in the breakdown of the marriage? All questions that arose in my mind as I listened to this book. My sympathies are more on Roy's side although I can see he has some faults. What I will remember most is how easy it was to convict an innocent man and the fact that he was African-American was a big contributing factor.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    First thing is the dust jacket that has an image of a tree. That symbol alone made me want to read the novel,y plus I enjoyed “Silver Sparrow “ so I knew this story wouldn’t be any different. As I started reading the book, somewhere into the second or third chapters, the book made Oprah’s Book Club list and a movie soon to follow was announced.Second, the symbolism of the tree was revealed 30% into the story. The characters where unpredictable, in terms of what they confessed to and their current state of mind, but that is what made the story evolve and gave it its charm. Third, I enjoyed the epistolary(told through letters) writing style. It told a lot within huge segments of time. My favorite character was Mr. Roy Senior. He was a quite, humble but steady and a strong hearted man. I highly recommend reading this book, for it is well written and I also enjoyed the audiobook from my local library.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    A downbeat romance? A romantic tragedy? It’s hard to pin this one down. If anything it reminded me of Gone Girl with its twisty plot (and selfish protagonists). All the characters seem to be in the wrong and hard done by all at once - but I guess that’s marriage, eh guys?
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Excellently written love story. Jones captures emotions and the trials and tribulations of love in her novel that left me pondering the depths of thought and experience.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Roy and Celestial are a young professional black couple in Atlanta. Life looks good until Roy is falsely accused of rape and then convicted. An American Marriage follows their story before, during and after his sentence.The novel takes on a huge issue – the mass incarceration of young black men through the failings of the US legal system, institutional racism and the legacy of slavery in the American South. But its genius is that it does so through a tight-knit cast of characters. We see Roy and Celestial mostly through their relationships to each other and their immediate friends and family.Roy and Celestial are not archetypes but real, flawed people. The close observation brings a sense of claustrophobia but also an unforgiving eye to their complexities. You are left wondering where their relationship would have gone if this terrible event had not befallen them. You can understand what brings them together, but also the ways they might not be compatible.The decisions Celestial takes when Roy is in prison are open to interpretation – is she doing the right thing, is she driven by the terrible situation she finds herself in, or do they reflect characteristics that were always there?An American Marriage highlights class and gender and the way they cut across race. Celestial is from an affluent, educated, confident family and she is financially secure and able to provide for Roy in prison. He has gone to university but he is from a poor rural background. His parents were proud that he had been successful and escaped the fate of most young black men in their community but now he too is in prison.Celestial feels that she has to make things up to Roy for what he has suffered, even though she is in no way responsible. As a woman, she is also victimised, by obligation, by guilt, by the need to make amends. She is made uncomfortable by the degrading experience of visiting, from the contemptuous looks of the staff to the intrusive strip searches. She also berates herself for not showing the ‘right’ emotions on the witness stand at his trial, for being articulate rather than in floods of tears, wondering if this might have swayed the jury.The part of the novel where Roy is in prison is told only through the letters the couple exchange. At first I was dubious about this. Epistolary novels often feel artificial – who puts their true feelings on paper any more? But being in prison is one of the few times when people actually do, because it is their only option. It also enables us to see Roy and Celestial as they see each other, when their only other contact is through brief, strained visits. Later we learn what wasn’t in those letters.This thought also led me to revise my view of the epilogue, which is also told in letters. Initially it felt the ending was too neat, but then it occurred to me that it may be naïve to take the letters at face value.This is such a beautifully crafted book, taking in both the domestic and the political, individual pain and social injustice. It is a well deserved winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for fiction.A note on the audiobookI listened to the audiobook which was perfect for the confessional, first-person narratives. It captured the contrasting voices – Roy charming and conversational, Celestial more brittle and reserved. More prosaically, I enjoyed their accents and the rhythm of the language – although I ‘hear’ the words when I read, they would probably have been more generically American in my head!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018. I wasn’t sure what to expect but in the end it did not disappoint.

    Celestial and Roy are a couple who are dealt a terrible hand. Having only been married a year and a half, Roy is literally torn from their bed and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. It is difficult enough to make a marriage work let alone when one of you is in jail – and wrongfully accused.

    This was a tough read. There are a lot of subjects I’m ignorant on, and mass incarceration is one of them. In the book I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a rape kit, DNA testing, etc. How was Roy so easily committed for something he didn’t do? I still don’t know if that’s the norm, or if that’s just the norm if you’re black and accused. Either way it’s disgusting and disgraceful.

    My heart broke right along with Roy’s and Celestials’ and this book had me crying less than 100 pages in.

    I loved Jones’ writing. It was truthful, and visceral, sharp tongued and didn’t sugar coat anything. I particularly loved reading the letters Roy wrote and received to and from Celestial, and the others in his life. It was a unique and truthful way to communicate to the reader what was going on. They weren’t able to talk face to face every day, and through letters things can get misinterpreted. I liked that that was included.

    I don’t want to give away any spoilers on how it ends. I think it’s important not to know what happens, going into it. I will say the actions of Roy and Celestial are very believable. These are two imperfect humans trying to survive through what was dealt to them. I don’t think you can blame each of them for doing, acting, and saying what they did.

    Although this book has a lot of heartbreak in it, I do think this story is one, ultimately of hope.

    I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
    This review was originally posted on Books For The Living.