Book Review: “An American Marriage”

An American Marriage

“An American Marriage” centres on a terrible injustice: a man being tried, convicted and jailed, for a crime he didn’t commit.

Celestial and Roy are a young, newlywed, African-American couple. He’s an up-and-coming, young, hot-shot executive, and she’s an artist with a bright future.

Shortly after celebrating their first wedding anniversary, the couple decide to take a trip to visit Roy’s parents.

They decide to break up the journey with a night at a motel. When Roy makes a surprising revelation about his family, an argument ensues.

Roy goes outside for 15 minutes, to give them both time to cool down. While he’s there, he helps a lady who’s struggling with a sore arm get into her room. Roy mentions that she should check her door is locked properly for the night, as the doorknob seems a little loose.

When a crime is committed later that night, Roy is arrested. Despite his innocence, he is tried and sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Five years pass. Celestial and Roy struggle with the awfulness of prison visits, before becoming estranged. In a surprise turn of events, the lawyer who has been fighting Roy’s corner all this time secures his early release.

His conviction overturned just before Christmas, Roy returns home. But to whom, and to what? So much has changed. Can life pick up where it left off?

A story about race, and about justice

Like ‘If Only I Could Tell You’, the story is told through the viewpoint of three characters — Roy, Celestial, and Andre. (Andre is Celestial’s lifelong friend, and it was through him that Roy and Celestial met.)

It’s also told through letters, helping us understand Celestial and Roy’s feelings through both his grim imprisonment and the decisions they must take as a result of it.

Winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize For Fiction, this book is a love story, a story about race, and about justice. It contains some strong language, violence, and intimacy.

“An American Marriage” is by Tayari Jones.

For more of the team’s book reviews, click here.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!