An American Marriage Review
This book got me in the heart. I felt it in my chest. It brought up old feelings, reminded me of past loves, made me feel former heartache as if were fresh and had me gripped. Literally gripping onto the final pages as I walked into my office, unable to put it down until I reached my desk.
An American Marriage is a love story. A story of love which is shattered by wrongful conviction, then shaken by a surprise exoneration. Here’s what I though.
The story is mostly told from the perspective of the two main main characters in alternating chunks. I didn’t end the book on anyone’s side, I didn’t feel a stronger connection to one over the other. I felt like I’d been privy to the inner thoughts of two people, trying to deal with an impossible situation in the very best way they could.
Through the narratives you get insight into the different classes amongst the black community in the South. You see Roy’s working class parents from the small town of Eloe, Louisiana who worked hard, saved hard and pushed their son to have more than them. On the other side of the coin you have Celestial’s more than comfortable middle-class, Atlanta upbringing and privilege gifted to her by her fathers success. Then there is Roy. His determination to climb the ladder of social status to meet Celestial on the pedestal which he had placed her. These differences in upbringing and desires for the future show the cracks in our young couples marriage long before the conviction creeps in.
Black love and all it’s beauty and pain is illustrated so delicately and purely across two generations. The relationships of both Roy and Celestial’s parents are almost as important to the book as their own. It makes your question marriage and what it really means to take those vows. You feel Celestial’s burden, not only as a black woman who like so many has been forced to endure the outcome of rigged system, but also a woman who probably never wanted to be someone’s ‘wife’ in the first place
You can’t write a book about a black man in the USA being wrongful convicted of a crime without addressing the elephant in the room. This book isn’t here to educate the masses or be a call to action. It’s states the facts of the situation as clear as day, maintaining that if Roy was white man, this would not have happened at all. Yet whilst the book doesn’t shy away from the racial injustice at all it is not a massive focal point. The love story is the hero here.
Tayari Jones is well deserving of all of the applause, furore, awards and hashtags surrounding this book (#TeamRoy #TeamCelestial and even #TeamAndre!). Read it.