I was sent this book by my friend Zoe (thank you!) after she’d posted a photo mentioning she was engrossed in it. As she’s a BookCrosser and had registered the book, I took it on a little journey so I could read it and then release it elsewhere. I don’t seem to read many BookCrossing books these days and certainly don’t wild release them in the numbers I used to, so it was nice to be able to do this. As for the book itself – I became engrossed in it, too!

Tayari Jones – “An American Marriage”

(08 November 2019, BookCrossing)

Celestial and Roy have been married for just over a year and are still adjusting to life as a married couple, whcih is not easy and leaves the marriage somewhat fragile. Then, one awful night, Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit: perhaps indeed the crime of being black in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In urban, urbane Atlanta and rural Louisiana, two very different families try to deal with the fall-out of Roy’s imprisonment, and we read letters between the married couple but also between Roy and Celestial’s father and family lawyer. We also cycle between the viewpoints of Roy, Celestial and her long-term best friend, Andre, the boy next door (still), but has he always been carrying a torch for her?

Then we change pace from trying to conduct a marital argument via the post, when Roy is suddenly released from prison. In the most moving scenes in the book, I think, he returns home before heading off to claim his bride. But will their marriage survive his return and, indeed, should it? As Celestial’s career blossoms, should she sit waiting, should she have sat waiting, or should she be out there forging new connections? And how long can Andre patiently support both of them?

There are some wonderful supporting characters, including a great wise aunt. and we’re forced to confront the reality that everyone, from studious teens in The Hate you Give to middle-class white-collar workers in this novel, is at risk of assumptions and brutality that I, with the privileges of a white skin and a female gender, would almost never be likely to have to face.

This is a book about tradition, about fatherhood, about ambition and about masculinity. It makes people think “What would I do?” even as we are not likely to have to face what the characters face. And it’s also a well-paced, moving, positive and page-turning read. I’d recommend it to anyone.

I’m currently reading Sandi Toksvig’s “Between the Stops” which is a sort of autobiography but based around the bus stops on the No 12 in SE London, so bits of history and social history, too. Very funny and entertaining and also recommended.