‘An American Marriage’: Relationships tested by a wrongful conviction

'An American Marriage': Relationships tested by a wrongful conviction
Photo courtesy: blackbookstore.com

Atlanta couple, Roy and Celestial are ready for their next stage of life together. The newlyweds have both made tremendous progress in their careers; Roy being a young executive and Celestial an artist on the edge of her breakthrough moment. The future they envisioned abruptly fades when Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime he did not commit. 

Celestial finds herself in an uneasy situation as she begins to prioritize her career, while waiting on Roy’s return. Though the faith in Roy never wanes, Celestial finds comfort and support from a friend, André. Andre has known both Celestial since childhood, Roy since college, and was even the best man at their wedding.

Fortunately, after five years Roy’s conviction has been overturned and he’s free to return home and to the life he’s missed immensely. What no one is prepared for is the new truth that their lives have become. 

Tayari Jones delivers an epic love story featuring a true case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The dramatic turn of events quickly destabilizes their marriage, leaving Celestial in a predicament. She carries the load of being Roy’s main support system while her own needs can’t be neglected. As Roy adjusts to life on the outside, he wonders how exactly his world turned upside-down so quickly when he’s worked hard to get to where he was. He exchanges love letters with Celestial, however, he can’t help feeling betrayed when he notices her growing distance and art being prioritized.

Jones paints a realistic experience of being Black in America. Regardless of class or status, being Black is a threat to many, creating a constant burden in the daily lives of Black Americans. Taking place in both Georgia and New Orleans, we see the consistency follow through generations and locations. Jones provides an intimate account on the effects of the criminal justice system and the many barriers they may face upon their return home.

Told from alternating perspectives and powerful storytelling, An American Marriage showcases the harsh effects of mass incarceration, race and class, marriage difficulties and the sacrifices we make for our happiness. 

Tayari Jones is a New York Times bestselling author and An American Marriage is her fourth novel. It has been awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Aspen Word Prize, and an NAACP Image Award. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. 

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