An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Book Club Recommendations Literary Fiction Sharing Diverse Voices

LoveReading Expert Review of An American Marriage

A masterpiece of storytelling.

A tale of love and loyalty, and the spiderweb of repercussions when hard-working, Roy, is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Though the topics covered are undoubtedly powerful, from racial injustice to the myriad of problems with the judicial system, Tayari Jones expertly shines a light on just what it means to be married, through both the joys and burdens that union brings about. The characters are so deeply drawn that the cull of their future left me shaken. And in Celestial, Roy’s wife, we witness a woman stripped raw and slowly rebuilt. I felt every page. 

Selected by Chris Whitaker, Our Spring 2022 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.

Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.


An American Marriage Synopsis


Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American Dream.

He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day 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. Devastated and unmoored, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold on to the love that has been her centre, taking comfort in Andre, their closest friend. When Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together.

A masterpiece of storytelling, An American Marriage offers a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three unforgettable characters who are at once bound together and separated by forces beyond their control.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781786075192
Publication date: 7th March 2019
Author: Tayari Jones
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 336 pages
Primary Genre Modern and Contemporary Fiction
Other Genres:
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What To Read After An American Marriage

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Tayari Jones Press Reviews

'A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple' - Barack Obama

`This is a marvellous feat of storytelling, told with the type of light touch that can only be achieved through hard work.' - The Guardian

`Haunting...beautifully written.' - The New York Times Book Review

`It's among Tayari's many gifts that she can touch us soul to soul with her words.' - Oprah Winfrey

`Powerful...The both sweeping and intimate- at once an unsparing exploration of what it means to be black in America and a remarkably lifelike portrait of a marriage.' - The New Yorker

`Another incredible love story, though fraught with greater challenges for the couple at the centre, which makes the story all the more moving. Jones's prose is chock-full of lyricism, grace and wisdom. You will never forget the story of Celestial and Roy.' - Attica Locke, Observer

`A wonderfully deep and moving novel...powerful and exciting.' - Kate Williams, Chair of Judges, The Women's Prize for Fiction

'The story is a blend of thoughtful drama and social issues... Obama described it as a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African American couple. ' - Independent

`Epic...transcendent...triumphant.' - Elle

`Compelling...spun with tender patience by Jones, who cradles each of these characters in a story that pulls our sympathies in different directions. She never ignores their flaws, their perfectly human tendency toward self-justification, but she also captures their longing to be kind, to be just, to somehow behave well despite the contradictory desires of the heart.' - Washington Post

`A nuanced dissection of love, race, class, family and gender...the sharp simplicity of Jones' writing unleashes her characters' vulnerabilities, and facilitates a remarkably intimate portrait of a corrupt justice system, and the irreversible effects of wrongful conviction.' - Irish Times

`Jones writes brilliantly about expectations and loss and racial injustice, and how love must evolve when our best laid plans go awry.' - Esquire

`Quietly powerful...[Jones's] writing illuminates the bits and pieces of a marriage: those almost imperceptible moments that make it, break it, and forcefully tear it apart.' - The Atlantic

`A tense and timely love story... An American Marriage is the perfect book-club book - one the whole group will finish and discuss with conviction.' - People Magazine, Book of the Week

`Nuanced and evocative... A compelling exploration of the thorny conflicts that drive us apart and bind us, the distorting weight of racism, and how commitment looks across time - and generations.' -

`Jones has crafted a complex, layered story that's both intimate and broad, a literary page-turner that's impossible to put down.' - The Los Angeles Times

`This moment, right here in February 2018, feels like exactly the right time for Tayari Jones to be writing - and for us to be reading Tayari Jones. In the years since her debut, she has been getting better, and . . . added heft and substance to the rich and necessary stories she weaves.' - BuzzFeed

`Brilliant, timely... With spare and shimmering prose... Jones captures the life-altering losses Roy and Celestial endure in this unforgettable American marriage.' - USA Today

`It's always an event when there's new writing from Tayari Jones...' - Electric Literature

`Tayari Jones is blessed with vision to see through to the surprising and devastating truths at the heart of ordinary lives, strength to wrest those truths free, and a gift of language to lay it all out, compelling and clear. That has been true from her very first book, but with An American Marriage that vision, that strength, and that truth-telling voice have found a new level of artistry and power.' - Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

`Heart-wrenching... An American Marriage poses profound questions about what we owe each other, and what injustices we allow to persist.' - Huffington Post

`I love An American Marriage and I'm so excited for this book to be in the world. Tayari's novel is timely, thoughtful, and beautifully written. Reading it, I found myself angry as hell, laughing out loud, choking up and cheering. A gem of a book.' - Jacqueline Woodson, author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming

`A heart-breaking and genuinely suspenseful love story... Tayari Jones has written a complex and important novel about people trapped in a tragic situation, struggling to reconcile their responsibilities and desires.' - Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children

`Tayari Jones is a great storyteller. An American Marriage holds the reader from first page to last.' - Amy Bloom, author of Lucky Us

`Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.' - Kirkus (starred review)

'[A] searing, gut-wrenching, page-turning read.' - The Sun

`A stunning epic love story filled with breathtaking twists and turns... Skilfully crafted and beautifully written, An American Marriage is an exquisite, timely, and powerful novel that feels both urgent and indispensable.' - Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory

`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.' - TheRumpus

`Tayari Jones provides an essential contemporary portrait of a marriage in this searing novel. An American Marriage gorgeously evokes the New South as it explores mass incarceration on a personal level.' - Entertainment Weekly

`Jones crafts an affecting tale that explores marriage, family, regret, and other feelings made all the more resonant by her well-drawn characters and their intricate conflicts of heart and mind.' - Booklist

`Masterfully executed... Jones uses her love triangle to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South, while also delivering a satisfying romantic drama.' - Publishers Weekly

`Enchanting... There are rarely novels as timely or fitting as An American Marriage... The story is gripping, and the characters are unforgettable.' - Foreword Reviews (starred review)

`[A] very insightful, touching story about contemporary relationships.' - Book Riot

`A magnificent, painful story of love and justice.' - Sainsbury's Magazine Book Club Choice

`When a book comes recommended by both Barack Obama and Oprah, you can be sure it's going to make waves. And...rightfully so as this is a stunning novel that examines themes of racism, the American (in)justice system and commitment set around a young African American couple.' - Victoria's Book Reviews

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781786075192
Publication date: 07/03/2019
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781786075161
Publication date: 05/04/2018
Format: Hardback

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About Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She serves on the MFA faculty at Rutgers and blogs on writing at She lives in Brooklyn.

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