Sunday read: An American Marriage

An American Marriage kicked off the resurrection of the Oprah Book Club, so there has been quite a bit of hype around it. And I could not wait to get hold of this book.

The novel itself has all the necessary ingredients for a tragic love story. But it is so much more. An American Marriage is a timely interrogation of themes and issues that reverberate in African-American society. But it also takes the discussion into new realms.

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Spotlight

The US criminal justice system has been in the spotlight of late for all of the wrong reasons. Much has been written about race-based injustice, how juries are more likely to convict a black man than a white man when presented with the same evidence and how young black men are racially profiled.

In her novel, Tayari Jones goes beyond the profiling and court cases. She lays bare for the reader what happens as a result of the unjust justice system. In a searingly candid portrayal, Jones delves into the personal and long-term consequence of the injustice of the American justice system and its bias against black men.

This story of love, marriage, hope and loyalty plays out in a black home where a newly-married couple are torn apart.

Damage

Roy has clawed his way out from a working-class background. He’s earned a scholarship to college and is a hard-working entrepreneur. The love between Celestial, an artist, and Roy is the stuff of fairytales. The couple has the world at their feet when they get married. But, on a trip back home to Louisiana, Roy is arrested and convicted of a crime he did not commit.

The rest of the novel explores how this event changes the lives of three people in far-reaching and devastating ways. Even after five years, when Roy’s conviction is overturned, the damage is done and lives have been irrevocably turned upside down.

This is more than a novel about marriage and loyalty. It is a reminder that the injustices against innocent black men in the US have consequences for others too – wives, parents and friends.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, is published by Bloomsbury

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