AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE
BY TAYARI JONES
It has taken us a while in the Den to get around to reading this 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction winner by Tayari Jones, but it was well worth the wait. This is a powerful and emotional page turner of what happens when a relationship is tested during a miscarriage of justice and “the system” lets you down.
Roy and Celestial, recently married, are living “the American dream”, furthering their careers, following their ambitions and thinking about starting a family. However, their ideal beginnings are brought to an abrupt end when Roy is imprisoned for a crime which Celestial and both their families know he didn’t commit, but are unable to prove otherwise. The question is: how long can their love survive and when Roy is released earlier than expected, can they pick up from where they left off?
Their separation is initially beautifully told through Roy and Celestial’s exchange of letters whilst he is in prison, when they both seem able to express their thoughts more openly than in person. When Roy is released earlier than planned, the narrative is told through interchanging characters including Andre, a mutual friend caught up in this tragic situation.
The book raises the questions of right and wrong, the power of love, race and class and ever-present divisions within society when a young African American couple are caught on the wrong side of the law, how hard it is for them to prove their innocence and ultimately the humiliation they suffer.
The story is exquisitely written and beautifully paced. Every character has their flaws, which Jones explores intimately. A compelling and moving page-turner.
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