An American Marriage

An American Marriage.jpg




Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unarmored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward--with hope and pain--into the future.


My review:


How do you move on in your marriage after it has been put to a full stop? How do you draw from everything it encapsulated till now without going insane when that is all you have left?

American Marriage is an intimate portrait of love in a newly formed marriage that is soon faced with a tragic event. Against all odds and time, this is a very difficult thing to endure, not to mention move on with and overcome as a married couple. Marriage might be a sacred place between two people that forms one unit, but the struggles for each alone against adversity is what this book examines closely under the microscope. 

“Before we were living that Huxtable life. But now where are we? I know where you are and I know where I am, but where are WE?” 
― Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

Celestial Davenport and Roy Hamilton are that hardworking couple you find in the suburbs….in this case by Atlanta, GA. They come from different backgrounds, but what they have is special and beyond these definitions. Roy comes from humble beginnings, had his good times with the ladies but works hard towards his future after he settles down with Celeste. And she is a very creative dollmaker, raised in Atlanta with parents in the upper middle class. They both met in college and hit it off. Then there is Andre, Celestials best friend since childhood. He is the one that introduced the two of them. 

“A marriage is more than your heart, it's your life. And we are not sharing ours.” 
― Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

Although their marriage is developing wonderfully, Celeste at times wonders if Roy still has that wandering eye. But Roy does all he can to do the right things and not stray to keep this marriage going. He is committed. 

One evening when the two of them are traveling out of town, they have a little quarrel in their hotel room. The neighboring occupant calls the cops and claims that Roy had sexually assaulted her. He is handcuffed and led away. This is basically where it all full stops!

Roy is sentenced to 12 years of incarceration.

Everyone is devastated. The newlyweds from now on can only partake in visitation in cold rooms through a glass window and communicate the old-fashioned way. Writing letters. 

“Dear Roy, 
I am writing this letter sitting at the kitchen table. I’m alone in a way that’s more than the fact that I am the only living person within these walls. Up until now, I thought I knew what was and wasn’t possible. Maybe that’s what innocence is, having no way to predict the pain of the future.”

Roy writes:

“This love letter thing is uphill for me. I have never even seen one unless you count the third grade: Do you like me__yes__no.”

In alternating voice you will read now what it is like for either of them to live with this sentence and build a life around this situation. For a lack of daily life in the world, Roy falls into idealizing his wife and his love for her. It becomes his beacon. Celeste is working on her dolls and gets work contracts that take her to different places and shows, so she can’t find the time to be everything for Roy. She is trying…but life has a way of moving on. 

“Sometimes it's exhausting for me to simply walk into the house. I try and calm myself, remember that I've lived alone before. Sleeping by myself didn't kill me then and will not kill me now. But this what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn't simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it's gone, nothing is whole again.” 
― Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

Fortunately, Roy is released miraculously after only serving his sentence for 5 years. That is still 5 long years…..and a lot has happened since then. But I won’t say anymore here and spoil the novel for you. You will just have to read it for yourself. 

I swear I did not pick this book up because it was an Oprah Book Club pick (although she picks great books!). I saw it on Instagram just once and I liked the cover. I put the book on my wish list on Overdrive, and can’t believe there was no wait for it. I had it the next day and so here I went…trying something different. Why different for me? Because I usually don’t read romance anymore or contemporary fiction. 

It did not take me long to figure out that this author can write. She can really write! Write very well! Woven like fabric in such intricate depth exploring the human thought and feeling from the grandest to the tiniest spaces. She will touch your heart and soul. This, besides talent and hard work, can only come from a person that has experience in life. The scope and detail of inner workings, relationships and family are truly remarkably explored in this novel and I enjoyed reading it at awe of her understanding of such things.

I may be persuaded to read this author more often and give this genre more of a try at this point. The only reason it wasn’t a 5 star read for me is that in some instances it was a bit long. But I am curious what others are thinking!?