books and reading

An American Marriage

I read Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones a number of years ago when it was a selection of The Rumpus’s Book Club selection. I don’t remember much, but I gave it four stars on Goodreads, so I must have enjoyed it. I do remember that it shifted narrators, just like An American Marriage does. I found an ARC of AAM at my local library several months ago and bought it for $1. Turns out I had a signed copy and didn’t realize it until I sat down to read it.  I immediately placed it on a very high shelf never to be read and borrowed a copy from my library.

The story follows newlyweds Celestial and Roy through an all too real situation- the false imprisonment of an innocent man. Roy is found guilty of raping a woman, even though he didn’t do it and his wife testifies they were together. But the jury believes the victim, and Roy is sent away. Much of their story early on is told through prison letters. Each one a bit more heartbreaking than the last. Roy discovers a familial connection while in prison, which makes life a bit easier for him, while Celestial just misses her husband. But time passes and she moves on. She isn’t trying to, but it just happens. Her life is thriving with a small, successful business and her childhood best friend, Andre, becomes something more.

The trouble arrives when Roy is released early. Five years have gone by and he no longer has a wife. They are still legally married, but too much has changed for both of them. The cost of imprisonment, especially for an innocent person, is unmeasurable. Not only did the true perpetrator get away with a crime and justice isn’t truly served, but the lives of all those surrounding the innocent are ripped apart. To this day, 364 people have been cleared of false charges against them through the DNA findings of The Innocence Project. Celestial and Roy are only an example of the true horror of the falsely convicted in our country.

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