Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Roy and Celestial have a seemingly almost perfect modern love story. He's a man from humble beginnings on his way up the financial ladder. She is a passionate artist from middle class origins with her own expectations of a successful career. Just when they finally settled into the every day rhythms of married life, their world is rocked when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
The next part of the book is in epistolary form through the use of the letters sent between Celestial and Roy. The letters first show how bonded and determined they both are to maintain their same level of emotional closeness despite the physical separation. As time progresses, the letters show the fractures widening in the relationship. Jones could have told the reader what happened; instead she utilized a format that allows for an anguishing slow burn, which maximizes emotional turmoil.
Jones highlights quite a few hot button topics: marriage, fidelity, racial profiling, the mass incarceration system, bias in our justice system, and the nature of family. That's a lot to put into a novel but she does this in such a quiet way that the reader is allowed to take it in at his or her own pace and level of impact. An American Marriage is a gorgeously written book with painstaking attention paid to both primary and secondary characters. It's a deep book but it doesn't feel heavy and stays with you long after you physically put the book down.
An American Marriage is the most recent Oprah's Book Club selection but don't let that knowledge alone sway you to read or not read this book. If you enjoy reading books featuring regular people tackling modern day issues in a realistic way, you will enjoy this book. If you enjoyed Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things I would urge you to give An American Marriage a shot.