An American Marriage
By Tayari Jones
A Review By Phaidra Robinson
‘I believed that our marriage was a fine-spun tapestry, fragile but fixable. We tore it often and mended it, always with a silken thread, lovely but sure to give way.’ – Celestial Davenport in An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.
This novel was a gift to me, and the prestige it came with – having won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 – made me sceptical that it may not live up to the hype around it. Despite my trepidation, An American Marriage turned out to be an emotional, honest and gripping tale of the heartbreak and destruction that a false accusation can cause.
An American Marriage follows Roy and Celestial who have been married for only a short time before Roy is accused and arrested for a crime he did not commit. The first part of the novel describes their relationship until the fateful night that Roy is arrested. The second part chronicles the letters Roy and Celestial write to each other over the time he is in jail until he is finally released as an innocent man. Finally, the third part of the novel describes Roy’s reaction to the world outside of prison and the relationships he must salvage.
I found myself repeatedly having to put this book down because it tore at my heart too much. I have not read such an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of the trials and tribulations of a young couple facing adversity and the choices they make to cope. Celestial loves Roy but wants to be successful in her career and struggles with her guilt as she makes her life for herself while Roy is in prison. Roy struggles with his identity and the reality of the people closest to him moving on in life while he is in prison.
Jones is a moving writer and I cannot wait to read her other work. She writes a beautiful portrayal of the realities of love and young relationships – a perfect book for anyone who has faced tough decisions in their relationships.