If Oprah picked it as her book club selection it has to be great, right? Right. This book was not what I expected but was beautifully written, well-told, and really drew me in. I selected An American Marriage as my February Book of the Month Club pick and I have no regrets! I’m no Team Oprah with this one.
Roy and Celestial have only been married a year when Roy is sent away to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. They write letters to each other, but as you can imagine, the prospect of up to twelve years apart is tough on both of them. When, after five years in prison, Roy is exonerated and released, he returns home to find Celestial torn between him and her lifelong best friend, Andre. This is more than a love triangle though. The complicated interwoven narratives of love, desire,need, and purpose are beautiful. It’s not just about a man getting out of prison. It’s not just about a woman falling for the boy next door. It is all of those things and far more. It’s hard to put into words how this book made me feel, but I gave it five stars when I reviewed it on Goodreads without a second thought.
I was just blown away with how well-written this was. I listened to the audiobook and the narrators really did justice to the prose. And the characters are realistic and flawed and so compelling. Celestial is a doll-maker and her creations are so unique and she is such a successful woman in that aspect. But she still struggles with what it means to be a wife and how to operate in a family and with other women who might have different expectations of her. Roy is a man who worked hard to get out of what could have been one way of life only to find himself brought up on false charges and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and when he comes out, he’s conflicted not only about what he wants but what he thinks he deserves and how to handle the world that moved on without him. Then there’s Andre, torn between the two of them as a best friend and a lover. I love the alternating points of view and thought they all had very distinctive voices that helped propel the story forward.
If you like literary fiction books that are not only timely but well-written and character driven, this is the book for you. Oprah wouldn’t lead you wrong. There’s a reason everyone is talking about this book. It’s just spectacularly written, even if it’s not the kind of book I would normally pick up.