Tayari Jones An American Marriage

Last updated date: October 21, 2019

DWYM Score
9.1

Tayari Jones An American Marriage

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Overall Take

In our analysis of 150 expert reviews, the Tayari Jones Tayari Jones An American Marriage placed 6th when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note November 4, 2019:
Checkout The Best Oprah Book Club Book for a detailed review of all the top oprah book club books.

Expert Summarized Score
9.3
29 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.8
2,973 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
This was beautiful. This was a slow roil. A story told with realistic dialogue. A story littered with metaphors. A story sprinkled with wisdom.
- Good Reads
"I love this title because the novel redefines the traditional American love story. It's really a love triangle and places it inside a world that a lot of people don't know about, but impacts all of us in really big ways," Oprah announced in February 2018.
- The Oprah Magazine
September 26, 2018 | Full review
“You’ll come away with greater empathy and understanding,” says Oprah about this book. “You’ll want to talk about it with somebody.” Barack Obama has praise for it too, calling it a “moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.”
- BookRiot
August 22, 2019 | Full review
Jones, as always, did reams of research for the novel. “I was most moved by tiny details about life inside of prison, the minutiae of deprivation,” she says.
- The New York Times
February 23, 2018 | Full review
This is a marvelous feat of storytelling, told with the type of light touch that can only be achieved through hard work. Any reader will warm to the characters’ southern lilt, with its gentle formality, a courtliness that has all but vanished from any other English-speaking part of the world.
- The Guardian
May 15, 2019 | Full review
Her 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
March 7, 2018 | Full review
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.
- The Washington Post
January 30, 2018 | Full review
An American Marriage's most interesting and tender struggle is with the question of what we owe one another; is expecting someone to wait more or less selfish than refusing to do so? Jones could give us a prescriptive answer, but she doesn't, and in that bittersweet unknowing, there is something beautiful.
- The Austin Chronicle
October 19, 2018 | Full review
With spare and shimmering prose that can strike with the shock of a shiv, Jones captures the life-altering losses Roy and Celestial endure in this unforgettable American marriage.
- USA Today
February 6, 2018 | Full review
It is the novel's strength that you see the story from all three points of view, although I suspect readers will probably pick a favorite to root for. An American Marriage is a memorable dissection of one of society's most venerable institutions.
- Book Browse
It boasts the kind of complexities that are a jumping-off point for bigger, necessary conversations. Especially since Jones's characters are so alive, so real and more complex than actual people you meet in real life. They're interesting, flawed and impossible to forget even weeks after finishing their story.
- The Globe and Mail
March 15, 2018 | Full review
There’s beauty in Celestial and Roy’s story, but Jones refuses to sugarcoat their struggle as they try to chase their dreams.
- Chicago Review of Books
March 2, 2018 | Full review
An extraordinarily timely, moving, and accomplished portrayal of how one man’s wrongful incarceration effects his marriage and his community.
- Amazon Book Review
February 6, 2018 | Full review
There are rarely novels as timely or fitting as An American Marriage. It brings abstract ideas about race and love down to the material level. The story is gripping, and the characters are unforgettable.
- Foreword Reviews
It’s an interesting and affecting novel, even if it wasn’t the book I was intending to read (see caveats above). Instead, this book is about three people stuck in a love triangle, their relationships and families, their upbringings, and how all of that has impacted their perspectives.
- The Bibliofile
July 10, 2019 | Full review
In swift, smart strokes, Jones lays out the crime and the aftermath­, much of it through the letters that are, for a time, the couple’s only steady way to communicate. And what lies between the lines: the slow retreat of everyday connection, the sadness and regret that harden into absence.
- Entertainment Weekly
February 8, 2018 | Full review
Though the theme of fragmented marriages is common enough, An American Dream takes it gently and skilfully to another more powerful level.
- Deccan Herald
November 18, 2018 | Full review
Jones lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment in this piercing tale of an unspooling marriage.
- Publishers Weekly
December 11, 2017 | Full review
Really, though, author Tayari Jones tells a simple story of boy-meets-girl-marries-her. It’s a fairy tale, modernized; a romance with a twist: Roy idealizes his marriage, while Celestial is a realist.
- New Pittsburgh Courier
March 5, 2018 | Full review
Had a fierce grip on my attention for the duration. The characters are well developed and you can't help but like each one.
- Revision Division
October 24, 2018 | Full review
This beautiful, sad novel is about so many big things — love, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, heartbreak, healing, family, racism, endurance and transcendence.
- Star Tribune
March 10, 2018 | Full review
This is a must read. It is an important piece of literature. And as an advocate of Southern authors and Southern works of art, I would be remiss not to push this book into the hands of anyone looking for a recommendation.
- Dear Gentle Bookworm
May 24, 2019 | Full review
An American Marriage is not a novel about who really committed the crime that sent Roy away. It never even for a second moves it in that direction because that doesn’t matter; that is the theme of another book—a safer book. An American Marriage is about our twisted judicial system that unremittingly turns “standard-issue American Negro” men like Roy into “a victim of America”—and how those two concepts are all too often one and the same.
- Cleaver Magazine
I did enjoy the ending, and how Tayari Jones concluded this situation, it felt true and authentic.
- ReadWithWine
This is a novel that unabashedly plays with your senses of right and not-quite-right. It also plays with your emotions, if you’ve ever been in love — so have a handful of tissues nearby. “An American Marriage” could bring you to your knees.
- NWI Times
March 11, 2018 | Full review
The characters in this book are breathtakingly vivid. The author did an amazing job of capturing the emotions in the story. The pain, the heartache, the betrayal—all of it felt so crisp and real. Roy, Andre, and Celestial are captivating characters, and you can’t help but become emotionally invested in their lives. If you’re looking for a novel with a little grit and a lot of passion, check this book out.
- Thrifty Bibliophile
March 26, 2018 | Full review
Jones lets her characters speak individually, each for themselves. Their multi-faceted perspectives, relayed in distinct first-person voices, ring true. She doesn’t take sides. Everyone bears guilt, passion and suspicion. And each of them is broken in some way by the separation. Their struggles will win your heart, break it, and check your compassion.
- Steamboat Pilot & Today
February 2, 2018 | Full review
There was one element besides the writing that I liked, and that was the premise or main theme of the story. It involved the main protagonist, Roy Jr. and his wrongful conviction of a crime he didn’t do. Many a black man’s plight in America, being wrongfully convicted based on either the color of their skin and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Ms. Jones does a great job highlighting this in An American Marriage.
- Ordinary Servant
October 4, 2018 | Full review
With its focus on a racially charged accusation, a wrongful conviction, and the grim realities of incarceration, Jones also writes a novel that is both topical and timely. A novel that manages to be both epic in scope and deeply, at times painfully, intimate, giving readers vivid characters, dramatic situations and profound questions that will stick with them for a long time to come.
- Book Reporter
February 9, 2018 | Full review
What experts didn't like
I didn't connect to Roy or Celestial so I didn't feel invested in their story.
- Good Reads
At times the characters indulge in a little too much navel-gazing and seem to make the same points about marriage over and over again. These veer dangerously close to reading like platitudes.
- Book Browse
I considered abandoning it when the book’s focus moved toward the love triangle aspect of the story.
- The Bibliofile
July 10, 2019 | Full review
The dialogue—especially the letters between Roy and Celestial—are sometimes too heavily weighted by exposition, and the language slides toward melodrama.
- Publishers Weekly
December 11, 2017 | Full review
I just could not connect with the characters, and I think somewhat this has to do with the perspectives of the story.
- ReadWithWine
I had a difficult time identifying and connecting with the characters in general.
- Ordinary Servant
October 4, 2018 | Full review

From The Manufacturer

A NEW YORK TIMES AND WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK A 2018 BEST OF THE YEAR SELECTION OF NPR * TIME * BUSTLE * O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE * THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS * AMAZON.COM OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB 2018 SELECTION LONGLISTED FOR THE 2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION “A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.” —Barack Obama “Haunting . . . Beautifully written.” —The New York Times Book Review “Brilliant and heartbreaking . . . Unforgettable.” —USA Today “A tense and timely love story . . . Packed with brave questions about race and class.” —People “Compelling.” —The Washington Post “Epic . . . Transcendent . . . Triumphant.” —Elle 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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An Overview On Oprah Book Club Books

Reading more books is a common personal goal, but it’s tough to accomplish without some good recommendations. In 1996, Oprah Winfrey decided that it was time to give her viewers some much-needed guidance on their next book choice.

Oprah’s Book Club started off as a new segment in Oprah’s hit daily talk show. She’d choose one book per month (usually a novel) for her viewers to devour and discuss. The segment was a massive hit, and Oprah’s power in the publishing world remains unsurpassed. One expert estimated that a recommendation by Oprah increased a book’s sales by 20 to 100 times the normal rate. 

During the club’s initial 15-year run, Oprah selected 70 books. They ranged from older classics, like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” to indie titles like Breena Clarke’s “River, Cross My Heart” and Tawni O’Dell’s “Back Roads.”

Oprah shuttered her original book club in 2011, but revived it in 2012 as an online version called Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Even with her long record of excellent recommendations, it might still be tricky to find an amazing book that works for you.

If it’s been a while since you last sat down with a book and you want to get the most for your money, take a hint from Socrates: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Your own interests and life experiences will dictate which books you’re drawn to and which ones you set down after the first chapter.

Do you have children who are growing into young adults (or are you reminiscing about your own adolescence)? A coming-of-age tale among Oprah’s picks might be a good fit for your bedside table. Interested in exploring your family’s roots? Look for a novel featuring people with your background set hundreds of years ago. Itching for a story from a powerful writer? Check out the Classics section on Amazon and immerse yourself in a legendary book. 

Of course, writing and reading are meant to build bridges. You’ll miss out if you only select stories that directly relate to your current or past experiences. Look for Oprah’s Book Club selections by authors from a different race, ethnicity or socioeconomic class to expand your horizons. Stories that you couldn’t even imagine experiencing will open your mind and create empathy for a broader, more inclusive look at the world.

Now that you have an overview of what Oprah’s Book Club was all about (plus some general book-choosing guidelines), trek on over to our Tips & Advice for more detailed information.

DWYM Fun Fact

Oprah’s Book Club reignited a love of reading for millions of people. However, things got tense for OBC fans in 2006. Oprah selected James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” for her club in September 2005, and readers couldn’t get enough of Frey’s memoir. It was a true account of his life as a drug addict, criminal and jailbird — or so Oprah thought. 

A few months after her stamp of approval (and after his book sold several million copies), critics began questioning Frey’s stories about his time in rehab and jail. As more accusations surfaced, Winfrey brought Frey back on her show in January 2006 and confronted him. After an intense exchange, Frey admitted that he’d lied about his time in jail and was unsure about other large sections of the book. Oprah also confronted Frey’s publisher Nan Talese on air, forcing her to admit that she hadn’t fact-checked Frey’s account. 

Oprah’s audience booed Frey, and she said that she felt “duped” and apologized to her viewers. However, Winfrey made a personal phone call to Frey in 2008 and apologized for the on-air brawl. The bad book blood was put to bed, but viewers never forgot “Frey Day.”

The Oprah Book Club Book Buying Guide

  • Making room in your life for more reading is admirable, but life doesn’t always want to cooperate. Take a realistic look at how much free time you have before you invest in a 500-page novel. It’s better on your psyche (and your wallet) if you choose a shorter book that you actually have time to complete.
  • That being said, a book’s physical length isn’t always the best indicator of how much time you’ll have to devote to reading it. Short books with complex language, difficult vocabulary and challenging themes can take much longer to read than lengthy books with shorter sentences and quicker action. You can get a sense of a book’s difficulty from the free, short samples that Amazon provides for most of its books.
  • A great book combines a riveting plot with deep, well-developed characters, but many stories lean more heavily on one of those components than the other. Books that are more driven by plot usually (but not always) move a little faster as you read them. Books that lean on character development and move forward by drawing you into the fold of a character’s mind might seem a bit slower. Many readers prefer one over the other, but both types of literature become riveting in the hands of a deft author.
  • Oprah’s recommendations are meant for adults, so the language and themes might not be appropriate for younger readers. If you’ve got kids in the house, give them age-appropriate books so you can bond over reading without exposing them to a book they’re not ready for. 
  • To ebook or not to ebook? That’s the eternal question of the digital age. Choosing an Oprah’s Book Club title in ebook form has a lot of benefits. You can tote it around with your entire library of books in one slim e-reader, so it’s much easier to take with you while traveling. It won’t take up tons of space in your home either — that’s a relief for anyone who’s tried to pack and move shelves full of books. You’ll also save some paper by forgoing a traditional book. However, you might want to go for a physical copy if you have a job that requires staring at a screen all day. Your eyes get tired without a break from screens, and you’ll do your vision a favor by reading a paper book. Traditional books also look lovely in your home.