Resident Ellyn Loy will review An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones [Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2018] on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 7 PM in the Auditorium.
This bestselling novel is described as a “captivating love story that is also a clear-eyed look at the effects of injustice in contemporary American life. “ The story centers on an African-American couple, Celestial and Roy, young professionals who met while they were both students at historic black universities. They went separate ways after graduation, met again and married. Roy is a tech salesman who grew up in the small town of Eloe, Louisiana. Celestial , an artist who makes distinctive dolls, was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.
The story develops like a spider web around an incident that happens 18 months into their marriage.. Roy is falsely accused of a crime while the couple is staying at a motel. He is found guilty, incarcerated and sentenced to many years in prison. The characters tell what happens to this barely- experienced marriage, when this tragedy intervenes. We learn about their families and how they influenced the young couple in their personalities and their choices.
Roy and Celestial alternate telling the story. A third character, Andre, Celestial’s lifelong friend from Atlanta, adds his perspective. The story is told using different literary forms, beginning with the first person narrative. Later, during Roy’s incarceration, the story is told through letters the couple write to each other. It is through these letters, and then the lack of them, that we begin to see what is happening to their American Marriage.
There are several themes that run through this novel- marriage, fatherhood, family. There are also the overriding complexities of race and class. If Roy had been white, would he have been wrongly accused and incarcerated? If Celestial and Roy had been from similar classes and backgrounds, would there have been a different outcome?
The author, Tayari Jones, has written three previous novels. , which were well received. She is on the English faculty of Emory University and a faculty member at-large at Cornell University.
This is Ellyn Loy’s second book review at Charlestown. She is a Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the fields of Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse. Presently she is employed by The University of Maryland School of Social Work as a Faculty Liaison for Social Work students in the field.
Janet Neer and Jane Backstrom, Book Review Coordinators