An American Marriage

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An American Marriage
First edition cover
AuthorTayari Jones
Audio read byEisa Davis[1]
Sean Crisden[1]
Cover artistJaya Miceli[2]
CountryUnited States
Set inAtlanta and Louisiana
PublisherAlgonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date
February 6, 2018
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
AwardsWomen's Prize for Fiction (2019)
ISBN978-1-61620-877-6 (hardcover)
LC ClassPS3610.O63 A84 2018

An American Marriage is a novel by the American author Tayari Jones. It is her fourth novel and was published by Algonquin Books on February 6, 2018. In February 2018, the novel was chosen for Oprah's Book Club 2.0.[3] The novel also won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction.[4]

The novel focuses on the marriage of a middle-class African-American couple, Celestial and Roy, who live in Atlanta, Georgia. Their lives are torn apart when Roy is wrongfully convicted of a rape he did not commit.

In an interview with The Paris Review Jones revealed that she initially wrote the book solely from Celestial's point of view and decided to add multiple points of view after her initial readers reacted negatively to Celestial.[5]


Roy, a sales representative for a textbook company, and Celestial, an artist specializing in custom made baby dolls, are newlyweds who live in Atlanta. After their first year of marriage they travel to Eloe, Louisiana to visit Roy's parents. The newlyweds spend the night at the local Motel 6 where they feud after Roy tells Celestial that his father is not his biological father. In the middle of their fight they take 15 minutes to cool off during which Roy exits their room and meets a woman around his mother's age with a broken arm whom he helps to her room. Later that night the woman is raped and she calls the police, believing that Roy was the one who raped her. While Roy is in jail awaiting trial, Celestial discovers that she is pregnant and the two decide that she should have an abortion. When the case goes to trial Roy is given a sentence of 12 years.

For the first few years Roy and Celestial keep an active correspondence, though Roy grows frustrated as Celestial's career as an artist begins to take off and the gaps between their letters and visits grows longer. During this period Roy discovers that his cellmate Walter is actually his biological father and shares the news with Celestial. Also during this time, Roy learns that his mother Olive has died. After three years Celestial tells Roy that she no longer wishes to be his wife, causing a rift between them. Roy refuses communication with Celestial for the following two years, however when his case is finally overturned on appeal and the local District Attorney decides not to pursue the case, he optimistically reaches out to Celestial believing that there is still hope for their marriage as she has never divorced him.

Celestial has, in the meantime, fallen in love with her childhood best friend, Andre. The night she learns that Roy is about to be set free, Andre proposes. Despite her guilt, Celestial decides to divorce Roy and marry Andre. Though the rest of her family accept her choice, the news causes a rift between Celestial and her father.

Roy is released from prison early and is collected by his father, Roy Sr. Aware that Celestial plans to have Andre pick him up, Roy decides to leave for Atlanta just as Andre is leaving to collect him, ensuring that he will have time to spend alone with Celestial. Before he leaves, Roy runs into a former classmate of his, Davina, who invites him over for dinner. The two end up having sex which Roy feels is meaningful. He nevertheless decides to leave for Atlanta to pursue a relationship with his wife.

In Atlanta, Roy is relieved to find that his key still works and surprises Celestial by being at home when she comes back from her doll shop. Roy tries to have sex with her but she asks him to use protection, knowing that he does not have any. The following day Andre arrives and in the ensuing argument about what happened when Roy was in jail Roy attacks and beats Andre on Celestial's lawn. Though the police are called Celestial manages to smooth things over. Celestial returns with Roy to her house and the following morning tells Andre that she needs to be with Roy. That night however, when Roy confesses to having sex with Davina, Celestial has no reaction causing Roy to realize that Celestial truly no longer loves him romantically. Though she is willing to have sex with him he declines saying he has never been and will never be a rapist.

In the epilogue Roy and Celestial exchange letters. Celestial informs Roy that though she and Andre are having a baby they have no plans to marry and Roy tells Celestial that he has reunited with Davina and the two plan to marry.


The novel was widely praised upon its release.[6] The New York Times praised it as a "wise and compassionate" novel.[7] The Globe and Mail called the novel "sensational".[8] The Washington Post commended Jones for her "daring creative choices" and "tender patience".[9] The Guardian described the book as, "an immensely readable novel, packed with ideas and emotion".[10] The Atlantic positively noted that, "with An American Marriage, Jones joins this conversation in a quietly powerful way. Her writing illuminates the bits and pieces of a marriage: those almost imperceptible moments that make it, break it, and forcefully tear it apart."[11]


Film Adaptation[edit]

Paramount Pictures purchased the film rights.


  1. ^ a b "An American Marriage". HighBridge Audio. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  2. ^ Velarde, Ciera (December 13, 2018). "The Most Beautiful Book Covers Of 2018". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  3. ^ Winfrey, Oprah. "Oprah's New Book Club: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones". Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  4. ^ Flood, Alison (June 5, 2019), "Women's prize for fiction goes to 'utterly moving' Tayari Jones novel", The Guardian.
  5. ^ Bereola, Abigail (8 February 2018). "If I Can't Cry, Nobody Cries: An Interview with Tayari Jones". Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  6. ^ "Book Marks reviews of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones". Book Marks. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  7. ^ Watts, Stephanie Powell (6 February 2018). "A Marriage Upended, a Life Destroyed". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  8. ^ Donahue, Anna T. (15 March 2018). "Review: Tayari Jones's An American Marriage is another sensational Oprah pick". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  9. ^ Charles, Ron. "Oprah's newest book club pick: 'An American Marriage,' by Tayari Jones". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  10. ^ Clark, Alex (2019-07-02). "An American Marriage by Tayari Jones review – packed with ideas and emotion". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  11. ^ Latham, Tori (2018-03-07). "The Epistolary Power at the Heart of 'An American Marriage'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  12. ^ Dwyer, Colin. "Tayari Jones Takes Home Aspen Words Literary Prize For 'An American Marriage'". NPR. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  13. ^ "2019 PRIZE". Aspen Words. The Aspen Institute. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  14. ^ "NAACP Awards: 'Black-ish,' 'Black Panther' Top Winners List". The Hollywood Reporter. 30 March 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  15. ^ "The Orwell Prizes 2019: Longlists announced". The Orwell Foundation. 7 May 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Announcing the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction Winner". Women’s Prize for Fiction. 5 June 2019. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  17. ^ Schaub, Michael (20 February 2019). "L.A. Times Book Prize finalists include Michelle Obama and Susan Orlean; Terry Tempest Williams receives lifetime achievement award". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  18. ^ "National Book Awards 2018". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2 June 2021.