An American Marriage

Tayari Jones's novel follows a husband and wife attempt to cling on to their love for each other while he serves time in prison.

Tayari Jones

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 12 years for a crime Celestial knows he didn't commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, 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 centre. 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. (From Algonquin Books)

An American Marriage was shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction

From the book

Dear Roy,

I'm 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. When something
happens that eclipses the imaginable, it changes a person. It's like the
difference between a raw egg and a scrambled egg. It's the same thing, but it's
not the same at all. That's the best way that I can put it. I look in the mirror
and I know it's me, but I can't quite recognize myself.

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 is 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.

Before I met you, I was not lonely, but now I'm so lonely I talk to the walls
and sing to the ceiling.

They said that you can't receive mail for at least a month. Still, I'll write
to you every night.


From An American Marriage by Tayari Jones ©2018. Published by Algonquin Books.

More about An American Marriage

TNC columnist Donna Bailey Nurse finds a Canadian counterpart to Tayari Jones' An American Marriage. 8:31

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