Guest written by Brittany Furbee
For the November book club meeting, I was asked to select a book about an unconventional family. My selection was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. This book, which was selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. and the winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, focuses on the marriage of a middle-class African American couple from Atlanta, Georgia whose lives are torn apart when Roy is wrongfully convicted of a rape he did not commit.
The book follows main characters Celestial and Roy as they try and navigate marriage while Roy is incarcerated. The author illustrates the intimate difficulties of their situation by sharing a series of letters written between the couple during Roys first 5 years of incarceration. Throughout the book you get to hear the perspectives of multiple characters, which allows the reader to see the impact this situation had on not just Roy, but their entire family unit.
During our discussion, we found the overarching themes of the book to be fairness and betrayal. We all agreed that Roy seemed to encounter unfairness throughout the book, and that this could have been a result of his race. This led to a deeper discussion about privilege and how as white women, false accusations, and imprisonment for a crime we did not commit was simply unimaginable.
When Roy is released from prison early after serving 5 years of his 12-year sentence, Celestial is forced to face the difficult decision of choosing between her husband or her new lover. This led to an interesting discussion about the commitment of marriage and what we would do if we were in Roy and Celestials shoes. Half the members agreed that they would have tried to save the marriage, while the other half thought they may be more inclined to move on and that the marriage would not be repairable. This tied into the idea that while Roy was falsely imprisoned and did not deserve for his marriage to be ruined or his life to be uprooted, it did not change the fact that his life could ultimately not return to normal after his release.
The group found this book hard to follow at times due to the timeline, but we all agreed that it was very thought provoking and overall an interesting read.