An American Marriage: Ain’t No Sunshine When He’s Gone

Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

My Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In Summary of An American Marriage

Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are broken up by his imprisonment for a crime he did not commit. Celestial and Roy must navigate marriage as a Black couple affected by incarceration; his twelve year sentence leaves their relationship stuck in time and suffering. Celestial finds comfort in her childhood best friend, Andre, which shakes her marriage to the core. When Roy is found innocent 8-years into his sentence, he must enter back into the real world to try to recover the life and love that he is not certain he has anymore. The three characters must face what can and can’t be controlled, as well as a systemic racism that decides their place.

PositivesNegatives
Almost lyrical display of love between the charactersDense in parts; not always a fluid read
Explores love in relation to race Very heavy topic; sad
Successfully transitions between the voices of the 3 characters; written letters add to the dynamic

Everything I do is a love letter addressed to you.

The Review

This book is one that should not be ignored or placed at the back of the bookshelf, as the themes it unearths are essential for Americans to face. Americans boast the freedom of our country, when there are still systemic chains that marginalized people are bound by.

An American Marriage tackles these issues with raw emotion and realistic characters. Do not expect an idealistic representation of love, but rather one that is realistic. Roy’s wrongful incarceration is eye-opening without creating a romanticized, overly gruesome version of the cruel system behind closed doors; instead, the novel focuses on the impact incarceration has on relationships and explores the resiliency of love. Additionally, it reveals the complexities of transitioning back into society and into one’s home and relationships.

Part of Roy and Celestial’s relationship is revealed through handwritten letters; this switch in narration style felt intimate and intriguing. I had a difficult time feeling empathy for the character Andre, so I found his approach to Roy and Celestial’s marriage a bit slimy, but I understand that this book is all about things happening to the wrong people at the wrong times.

This slow-burn novel makes you think, and it is entirely character-driven rather than plot-driven. If you are interested in reading a sorrowful, raw, emotional love story that tackles issues of race, this is a great pick. If you are looking for a casual beach read to lift up your day, then look elsewhere… for now.

Whether it’s now or later, please pick up this book and explore the love of these characters. Fixing injustice starts with empathy and understanding, and An American Marriage aims for just that.

An American Marriage Book Information

  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • ISBN:  9781616208776
  • Format: Hardback
  • Length: 336 pages

Learn About & Support the Author – Tayari Jones

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