An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Genres: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher (ARC)
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 was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2018. I wasn’t sure what to expect but in the end, it did not disappoint.
Celestial and Roy are a couple who are dealt a terrible hand. Having only been married a year and a half, Roy is literally torn from their bed and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. It is difficult enough to make a marriage work let alone when one of you is in jail – and wrongfully accused.
This was a tough read. There are a lot of subjects I’m ignorant on, and mass incarceration is one of them. In the book, I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a rape kit, DNA testing, etc. How was Roy so easily convicted of something he didn’t do? I still don’t know if that’s the norm, or if that’s just the norm if you’re black and accused. Either way, it’s disgusting and disgraceful.
My heart broke right along with Roy’s and Celestials’ and this book had me crying less than 100 pages in.
I loved Jones’ writing. It was truthful, and visceral, sharp-tongued and didn’t sugar coat anything. I particularly loved reading the letters Roy wrote and received to and from Celestial, and the others in his life. It was a unique and truthful way to communicate to the reader what was going on. They weren’t able to talk face to face every day and through letters things can get misinterpreted. I liked that that was included.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers on how it ends, nor do I really want to say much about what happens in the book. I think it’s important not to know what happens, going into it. I will say the actions of Roy and Celestial are very believable. These are two imperfect humans trying to survive through what was dealt to them. I don’t think you can blame each of them for doing, acting, and saying what they did.
Although this book has a lot of heartbreak in it, I do think this story is one, ultimately of hope.
I received an advanced reader copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.