If you couldn’t guess from the book’s title, Tayari Jones’ fourth book deal with relationships, with marriage as the central theme. However the main question Jones’ posits is not how a couple maintain their marriage but rather when does a marriage become invalid? and if marriage is a sign of true love.
Unfortunately a problem that I encounter with these types of books is that the novel does descend into melodrama due to the fact that the plot takes a deep look into relationships. In the novel the three main protagonists are Roy, his wife Celestial and Roy’s best friend Andre. Between them lies a complicated triangle of secrets.
From the start of the book we are given Roy’s character straight away. He loves Celestial and yet he flirts with other women and keeps things hidden from Celestial. At this point of the book it is his background. However Roy does think that despite his misgivings Celestial should always be the dutiful wife.
To a certain extent Celestial behaves the way Roy likes it. The main difference is that she is honest and has explained her background problems to Roy straight away.
The problems start when Roy is sentenced to prison and Celestial starts to question the validity of her marriage, this is cleverly done through a series of letters between Roy and Celestial. Eventually she starts to realise that her feelings are directed towards Andre, the person who introduced Roy to Celestial. The couple are engaged behind Roy’s back.
When Roy returns he expects Celestial to continue acting like the good wife, to worship him, stay complacent but she rebels and the truth comes out leading each couple to make a choice. Stay together or divorce.
As I said earlier there’s a melodrama factor when one has a plot like this and there are some soap opera moments but on the whole Tayari Jones manages to convey the deep and complicated feelings a couple have for each other and the end result is an investigation on the true meaning of marriage and it’s binding factor. It also is an exploration of African American culture, especially where food is concerned and I personally haven’t read many books which emphasise black culture so there were times I had to research some terms. Thankfully the book never goes into predictability, due to some red herrings. Strangely An American Marriage is a quick read, despite the heavy subject matter. Although I did like the novel and would recommend it, I also have to admit that it was a book that I admired and found interesting, rather than a novel that was absorbing. As such there’s nothing bad with that.
Many thanks to Oneworld for providing a copy of An American Marriage in exchange for an honest review.