Published: February 6th, 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
When I got this book in my Book of the Month box, I had heard a lot of good things and was excited to read it. But despite by 2018 New Year’s Resolution to read my Book of the Month picks in the same month I picked them, February came and went and I didn’t manage to get it picked up.
Several months went by and it sat patiently on my shelf, sadly being buried under countless other additions to my TBR pile (I have a serious problem and I am fully aware of this). Luckily, Hannah from @booknerdnative on Instagram, decided to host a Book of the Month Readathon in June in order for some of us to play catch up on all the Book of the Month titles we’ve accumulated but haven’t read. I picked An American Marriage as my first one to tackle (and then did a terrible job the rest of the month with this challenge).
But I am so glad that I managed to get to this one. It is an incredible book. It is gorgeously written and presents a timely story of a marriage in America, of love and forgiveness, of racial bias in the justice system, of families and what it means to be human.
Roy and Celestial have been married for only a year when Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison. As time passes, Celestial finds it harder and harder to continue on with their marriage, and finds comfort in Andre, her childhood best friend and college friend of Roy’s. When Roy’s sentence is suddenly overturned less than halfway through, he returns home expecting to put his life back together again the way it was, only to find that everything has changed.
Jones alternates perspectives, jumping between the voices of Roy, Celestial, and Andre. Jones’ prose is beautiful, but it’s also accessible and even conversational. With each chapter, it felt like I was being told the story from the characters themselves. They each have their own voice and they felt real to me. They’re all flawed; none of them are perfect and they don’t pretend to be. There were a lot of choices being made that I didn’t agree with, a lot of mistakes and things said that were hurtful, upsetting. But they felt like real people, living very real lives. This very well could have happened, could have played out in the same way it did in the book.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. But I know for a fact that it is one that I will keep coming back to. I’ll keep thinking about it. The fact that I might not love the way the story ends for these characters is pretty irrelevant.
This book is heavy, and deals out some hard truths and realities. It presents a real story starring real people, and although it didn’t do what I was expecting, or even what I wanted, I learned from it and I know I’ll be looking back to it in the future.
Also, fun fact, there’s talk of Oprah turning this one into a movie!