Book Review: ‘An American Marriage’ Is A Great Look At How One Event Can Impact Three People’s Lives

Roy an African-American man is accused and convicted of a rape that he didn’t do. He’s sentenced to prison and this changes three people’s lives in the thought provoking new novel from Tayari Jones.

Celestial and Roy are recently married and living in Atlanta. They take off to visit his parents in a small Louisiana town. His mother wants them to stay at the house while there. Roy has rented a room in a small hotel (something he will soon regret). While there he argues with Celestial and goes to get ice where he runs into a woman and they have small talk. He returns to his room and makes up with Celestial. Soon the police arrive and say the woman from the ice machine has been raped and she names Roy as the one who did it. He couldn’t have he was with his wife.

The police don’t believe him and soon he’s on trial and found guilty and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Celestial says she will wait for him. There’s lots of letters and visits back and fourth while appeals are being worked on. Unable to handle Roy being in jail and feeling her life is at a stand still she seeks comfort from her childhood friend Andre (who has always had a thing for her) and was Roy’s best man.

They are in love and decide to marry. She just has to tell Roy, who suddenly is freed on appeal and getting out of jail. What happens next is a soul-searching discovery for these three people. Does Celestial still love Roy and want to be with him? Would they have made it as a couple if he hadn’t gone to jail? What they decide and figure out will define the rest of their lives.

The author point out in her notes that this isn’t a story about a black man wrongly accused of a crime but about three people that have had their lives torn apart by forces out of their control. They have to search their souls and hearts and figure out what’s best for all involved. There’s not bad guys here (unless you count the criminal justice system).

You can pick up An American Marriage by Tayari Jones in stores on Tuesday, February 6th, from Algonquin Books. You won’t be sorry!

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