An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (first published in 2018 by Oneworld Publications)

Celestial and Roy have been married a little over a year, and they are happy. 

Roy’s career as a salesman is flourishing, and Celestial is an artist on the cusp of true greatness. The pair are considering starting a family and feel that their lives are on course; a result of the hard work and dedication both have invested. 

Yet everything changes when Roy is arrested for a crime he did not commit, and sentenced to 12 years in prison, despite his innocence. 

Soon, the two are apart for longer than they were married, and the relationship can no longer be admired for what it is, but only for what is was. 

While Roy’s life stagnates in a timeline that loops around itself behind bars, Celestial’s career rockets, and her relationships with the outside world continue unhindered, albeit without her partner. 

And while the distance between the pair slowly fills the cracks forming in their relationship, Roy can only hold on to his faith and his hope. 

Unexpectedly, five years into his sentence, Roy is released; a free man at last, despite his tarnished reputation. Immediately intent on picking up where he left off, he can only hope that Celestial’s faith in their love was as strong as his.

Swinging between a traditional yet deeply personal narrative and a series of letters between the couple, Tayari Jones affords the reader a first-hand view directly into the core of a marriage under strain. 

Through this unique view of the deeply intimate inner-workings of relationships, the reader does not feel like a voyeur or interloper, but rather, an additional facet to the relationship. 

The stark realism of Roy’s incarceration and the far-reaching effects of his absence are only discernible from a biographical tale by the sheer emotional fuel that is Jones’ poetic prose. 

An American Marriage is surprisingly easy to read for something with so much weight, and such poignancy. I read it in a single, startled sitting, and was left with so much to reconsider and reflect on when I stopped. 

This book is haunting and profound, and will stay with you for all the right reasons.

Purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za.

Read more of Samantha’s reviews on her book blog and check out her Instagram account.

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