An American Marriage: A Novel
Roy Othaniel Hamilton finds peace in the curve of his wife’s neck, in the halo of her wild hair, in the deep, scratchy alto of her singing voice. For him, Celestial Gloriana Davenport is the alpha and omega of his own happiness. Even as he starts to feel the creep of discord between them, he convinces himself that all he needs, all he will ever need, is her love. But what happens when that commitment is threatened? When what they have is splintered by distance, time, and the law?
In Tayari Jones’s latest novel, An American Marriage, the lives of Celestial and Roy are vehicles for a broader discussion about art, grief, and race. As Celestial’s artistic star rises, Roy’s fortunes fall due to a wrongful imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit, but, being a black man in the South, he was “the wrong race in the wrong place.” Their story plays out against the backdrop of their own parents’ love stories, two couples whose origins are complex and intricate and, ultimately, reveal what true love over generations should be.
Jones’s prose is masterful. Each chapter being told from a different character’s point of view allows for intimate and heartbreaking glimpses into the souls and motivations of these people trying to do what is right when it is often difficult to tell just what that might be. But the most effective moments in the novel may come in the letters exchanged between Celestial and Roy. Raw, sincere, and searching, their voices reveal what it means to fight for something.
An American Marriage is a must-read, not just for fans of narratives about love but for anyone who has known what is to struggle with the choice between pushing forward and letting go.