An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage is the fourth novel by American writer, Tayari Jones. It was originally published in 2018 by Algonquin Books and has received a wealth of awards and accolades, including the 2019 Women’s Prize For Fiction and the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction.* Plus it was the 2018 selection for the renowned Oprah’s Book Club.

The audio book was published in 2018 by HighBridge and narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis and has a running time of 9 hours.

Synopsis: Roy and Celestial have been married for just over a year and are living happily in Atlanta until a visit further south to see Roy’s parents in Louisiana sees Roy wrongfully accused of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to 12 years in a county prison. As a result of the shocking racial injustice, Roy and Celestial’s marriage is severely impacted.

An American Marriage was brilliantly written in such a way that it powerfully uses epistolary and dramatic writing techniques to tell a deeply distressing story, abounding in emotional value.

In terms of the narration, Sean Crisden’s extremely heartfelt performance was superb and felt very real. He wasn’t just reading a book, but rather he completely emptied himself, pouring every last drop of passionate intensity into his reading. In stark contrast however, I felt little to no emotional depth from Davis’ narration and so I felt little to no empathy for Celestial’s character.

Tayari Jones explores the impact of Roy’s incarceration in a multi-faceted way that seeks to make the reader identify and empathise with other characters in the novel, first and foremost being Celestial. Then we get to understand the effect Roy’s situation is having on Celestial’s oldest friend, Andre as well as Roy and Celestial’s parents. In this way, Jones perfectly hones in on the emotional strength of the novel through its characters.

An American marriage was undoubtedly a profound and contemplative listen. Its modern-day setting challenges the racial injustices that still form part of the fabric of American culture and by extension those which still exist in progressive Western politics.


*The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded in 1909, New York

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