An American Marrige
6th June 2018
Celestial and Roy are a couple of young professionals, recently married and on track to fulfilling their American Dream together. Their marriage is not without its problems, but they’re happy together and eager to pursue their dreams and expand their family. But when Roy is arrested, charged and found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit, their life together changes in ways they never imagined possible. Sentenced to twelve years in prison, after only a couple of years they’ve been separated longer than they were together. In time, Roy’s conviction is overturned and he’s released early, with no one quite sure what it is he’s returning to.
‘An American Marriage’ is told from three alternating perspectives: Celestial’s, Roy’s and Andre’s – a childhood friend, best man at their wedding, boy next door. Tayari Jones has masterfully created three unique voices, each written with such compassion and complexity that I found myself backing a different character with each chapter. They are all trying to make the right decisions in a situation that is unquestionably wrong, and their attempts to spare each other pain during a time that is already hurtful are endearing, but set up to fail from the start. The characters are flawed, and while their lives and circumstances are a world apart from anything I’ve experienced, they are somehow deeply relatable.
It’s rare for an author to bring out such compassion through characters so thoroughly conflicted. The story highlights political and social pitfalls profoundly but seemingly effortlessly. It was only when I finished the book and came up for air that the full implications really hit me. This book will stay with me for a long time to come.