Date Read: April 9th 2020
Published: January 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future
Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)
I finished reading An American Marriage yesterday. I usually take my time with my current reads, but I devoured this book in two days because I just wanted to get the pain over and done with. A book hits differently when you read it once the hype has subsided. My heart!
I initially wanted to give up on this book after the first 40 pages, but my Mom encouraged me to finish it (the book was a gift to her last year, and she loved it even though it was a painful read). I wanted to stop reading because the story was laden with a type of grief I didn’t want to deal with, especially not during this anxious time of Coronavirus. The events that led to Roy’s arrest were traumatic, painful and heartbreaking to read – especially with him being innocent. While the couple’s arguments prior the arrest were probably normal, I wasn’t encouraged by their relationship, as a whole. Reading the letters Celestial and Roy wrote each other while Roy was in prison was heavy. Their relationship before and after prison was just heavy! *sigh*… Andre, really sir?
There are no good or bad characters in this story – I’m on everyone’s side. I love that Jones showed how all the characters in this book came from imperfect (loving) families and how messy their relationships were. But I sympathize with Roy the most. Jones definitely highlights Black masculinity in all its forms, through poor Roy’s character, as well as the other men in this story – Andre, Big Roy, Carlos, Franklin, Uncle Banks. An American Marriage definitely reminds readers of the terrible effects of mass incarceration – not only for the people imprisoned, but also the friends and families involved. The last 50 pages of this book were probably the best! My heart raced as I was eager to know how the story would end. I quite liked how it ended, really. One thing that stuck out for me was how history repeated itself – with regards to how Celestial’s parents got married and Roy’s biological father in prison…
Jones made this book as Southern as possible and I loved that! Readers are acquainted with Georgia (Atlanta) and Louisiana (Eloe) via the landscape, the soul food, the accents and the lifestyles. It’s hard not to crave shrimp croquettes and blackberry jam cake while reading!
An American Marriage reminded me of Baldwin’s ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ and Ava DuVernay’s documentary ’13th’ – both tragic explorations of the serious systemic issues America is slow to rectify. Jones’ beautiful writing kept this story captivating, emotional and very human. I know this novel is a love story at it’s core, but ultimately, I found the story to be an intimately devastating tale that exposes the effects of America’s humongous issue of mass incarceration. Read this, if you have the heart.
Last thing! Maybe its because I’m almost a Dentist, but I can’t seem to get over how pained I am about Roy’s tooth… what’s the significance of the whole tooth thing? Someone please enlighten me!
★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!
Purchase An American Marriage on Amazon