I admit that this is the second version of this review. I wrote one, and then I went and heard the author Tayari Jones speaking at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and now I feel I have so much more to say!! But I will try and keep it short and sweet. If I was going to give you a very short review I would say “Go get this An American Marriage – and read it!”. Short and sweet.
But I will give you a little more to go on than that. Roy and Celestial (I know, the name is a bit out there, but don’t let that put you off) have been married for 18 months, a young and successful African American couple. They head to Atlanta to visit Roy’s parents and stay at a small motel for the night. That night ends up changing their lives forever when a woman is raped in the motel and Roy is charged with this crime – a crime he did not commit. He is charged and incarcerated for 12 years.
What a premise for a story! Can a new marriage sustain a 12 year separation? Can you vow to remain faithful and honest when your hopes and dreams have been so drastically altered? Would he wait for her if she had been the one incarcerated? Does the fact that Roy and Celestial are black and come from different family backgrounds have any difference to how the story pans out?
Celestial finds herself drifting and into the arms of Andre, a childhood friend of hers. But when Roy’s sentence is overturned and he is released after 5 years, the story gets more complicated. So many more issues! What should he expect What should be expected of her? How will Andre cope? How will Roy react when he finds out?
This is a love story (love triangle more accurately). But there is so much more to it, even though the love story angle would have been more than enough for me. The issues (still) of being an African American, the problems of incarceration in the US (highest in the world), testing the institution of marriage, racism, moral issues – it is all there. But in a beautifully written book that I could not put down. This is a superb book – great for a book club choice (Oprah named it in her Book Club) and if anyone who has read it would like to come and discuss it with me in the library without having the need for spoilers, I am free and available. Enjoy!
Find An American Marriage by Tayari Jones in the SMSA Library Catalogue