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All booksLiterary fictionAn American Marriage
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Literary fiction

An American Marriage

Each year thousands of members vote for our Book of the Year award—congrats to An American Marriage!

by Tayari Jones

Quick take

Celestial and Roy are a year into marriage when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit. After he's exonerated, they must try to save a relationship that may have been damaged beyond repair.

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    Heavy read

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    Social issues

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This is a partially epistolary novel, and its plot points occur mainly within the characters' minds.


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.

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Member thoughts

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All (10245)
Love (5124)
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10396 ratings
  • 49% Love
  • 41% Like
  • 8% Dislike
  • Denver, CO

    I was in awe of the writing, the twists and turns of the plot (some of which were happy surprises and some of which were very sad), and I was so enthralled with each and every character. Readers should know that this book is more than a love story; it is an examination of how life's sudden turns can define or redefine us.

  • Brighton, MA

    An American Marriage is gripping and compelling beyond belief--a siren's song of a novel that urges to be picked up the minute you have set it down. It is poignant, raw, and, at times, slow but always deeply rewarding. The writing is delicate, precise, and eloquent.

  • Dobbs Ferry, NY

    I felt every single emotion each character experienced throughout this book — a testament to Tayari Jones’ writing. It’s a sad work to soldier through, but worth the journey. It’s truth. It’s reality.

  • Denver, CO

    The book isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. It’s riddled with beautiful imagery and thoughtful metaphor, but also grounded in heart wrenching realism. The characters are so visceral it’s scary.

  • Reno, NV

    This one broke my heart, but it’s an amazing read. It’s hard to comprehend how these characters end on a positive note. The pain is so deep - on race, marriage, family. What an important story to tell

  • Killeen, TX

    I HATED how the book ended. But it captivated me from the first few pages. I’m going to have to invest in more of Ms. Jones’s books. I wonder if in Celestial’s position would I stay with Roy or go.

  • Roanoke, VA

    It’s hard to describe my feelings about this book. I experienced a number of emotions while reading. It’s sad what the state of marriage is in America. This book was well written and easy to follow.

  • James Island, SC

    “Sometimes there is a debt that must be paid, a comfort that, she is obliged to provide, a safe passage that must be secured. Every one of us has laid down for a reason that was not love”. ✋⭐️

  • Bethesda, MD

    Book made me think about relationships and society in new ways. I appreciate its author’s ability to open me up to a different point of view and set of circumstances to encourage me to think and feel.

  • Shelby Twp, MI

    I really enjoyed this one! Made me think of my own marriage and how time and situations can really change the course of it all. I enjoyed that the writing was divided up by the characters’ letters. :)

  • Chico, CA

    This was really well done... a good plot line and character development. I honestly wasn’t sure how this would end all the way to the very last pages. I see why this book has gotten such good reviews.

  • Baton Rouge, LA

    Thought provoking. What would you do if placed in this situation? I’m not sure how I would handle it all. Well this book will make you smile, cry, and pull you in so many directions. This one is good

  • Arlington, VA

    This book will sit with me for a long time. Incredibly, realistically heart breaking, especially when considering the political climate. Sad but happy ending; this is one of the best books I’ve read!

  • North Bethesda, MD

    Despite a sometimes too-slow and sometimes too-fast pace, this story’s rawness and timelessness were just right. A happy ending would have felt inauthentic after all they went through. Gorgeous work!

  • Mogadore , OH

    The writing in this book is excellent. So much character development, the story is engrossing but terrible. You know how it will end, but that takes nothing away from the train wreck that is happening


    This was full of complex and complicated characters! I loved that we got to see all of their POVs and how the author made you root for all of them even if there's no possible happy ending for everyone

  • Quanah, TX

    This is not a book I'd normally choose, but I was curious. I'm so glad I took the chance! Great story. Thought-provoking. First book in a long time to wreck my emotions. Can't recommend highly enough!

  • Santa Rosa, CA

    My heart was with all the characters. No one did anything wrong but someone was going to hurt. I couldn’t put the book down due to the suspense of who was going to come out as a couple in the end.

  • southport, CT

    This was an amazing book that allows the reader to experience the result of a failed justice system as if it was your own family. The characters are very relatable and the story is really well written

  • Montclair, NJ

    Beautifully written, important narrative. It is such a joy to read Black characters who are whole and deep. These characters felt very real, and the overarching theme of incarceration was handled well

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