Picking up a megaphone, I would like to announce with happiness that this has been one of my favourite reads. I have never enjoyed a novel more in the recent past. An American Marriage is a beautifully written book about a young African-American couple whose world is set upside down when Roy is sentenced to prison for twelve long years for a crime that the couple knows was never committed by him. Celestial tries her best to keep the marriage alive, while Roy rots in prison in a fading hope of acquittal. The trying circumstances bring irreparable changes to the two souls and the lives around them.
I loved the fact that it was easy for the book to have been just about the discrimination, and yet it escapes being confined only to that. After all, nothing comes close to an engaging read. It explores the long-lasting consequences of racism in the ordinary lives of the central characters. It is about the cruelty of life. But it is also about the redemptive beauty of second chances. What happens when Roy comes back to the normal world after his prison time? Will he be seen as a criminal or will the world accept him back? Will he still have the life he once had? Will his marriage sustain? How does Celestial weather this unexpected storm? What is the true United States? The book navigates these complex questions and many more.
The novel occupies that rare sweet spot of being able to enchant readers with the richness of language, deliver a strong message, although quite organically, and also, achieve the coveted International Best-seller status. I picked up the book having seen Obama’s stamp of approval over it. One more reason was the world’s awakened conscience after George Flyod’s tragic episode, how it was no longer possible for us to deny that racial discrimination is a real thing. I had never quite read a contemporary book that explored the nuances of racial injustice. To kill a mockingbird, yes, that was one I have read. But again, this book made me realise the depth of it in a pronounced manner.
I have this small dream of mine. I keep imagining how one day I will pass on some of my favourite reads to my children. If I ever sit down to make that list, this book will surely make its way into that. Humane, quite powerful and an irresistible page-turner- what’s not to love about it!