I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones a few weeks before it won the Women’s Prize for Fiction – one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes. How’s that for perfect timing! I received this book via a book swap with a bookstagram friend. It’s also an Oprah Book Club pick. I was intrigued to read this book but still didn’t know much about it before reading it.
An American Marriage tells the story of two newlyweds: Celestial and Roy. Roy is a young business executive going places and Celestial is an artist on the brink of success. But as they get used to married life, something happens that changes the course of their marriage and lives forever. Roy is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, arrested and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Can their marriage survive Roy’s incarceration? An American Marriage explores the fallout from this event.
I found An American Marriage to be a beautifully written novel which was easy to devour – even though the story itself is bleak. You don’t think that a middle-class black man could be wrongfully imprisoned, but this kind of thing happens all the time in America. I felt so much for Roy as he tried to maintain hope and keep it together in prison. Celestial had an impossible choice to make. Though she loved her husband and believed in his innocence, twelve years is a long time to spend alone in a marriage.
The writing in this book was so compelling, raw and beautiful. I can see why it won the women’s prize. I particularly liked the part in the book where they exchanged letters to each other when Roy is in prison. I can’t say that a lot happened plot-wise. This book is more a slow exploration of a marriage under pressure than a book full of plot twists. An American Marriage is one of those books where you can sit back and soak in the amazing writing.
Verdict: A wonderfully well-written look at a marriage in crisis.