An American Marriage
The winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction is now out in paperback. The titular marriage is between African Americans Celestial and Roy, who have been wed for around 18 months. One day they visit Roy’s parents in small-town Louisiana and decide to spend the night in a motel. During the night police officers crash into their room and Roy is accused of raping a woman he met earlier while out getting ice. He is subsequently found guilty and given a lengthy sentence. It’s the kind of plot device that other authors might have used to push a ‘did-he?-didn’t-he?’ line, with Celestial wondering just how well she knows her husband, but Tayari Jones chooses instead to pretty much dispense with the machinations of the trial and concentrate on how strong the relationship really is regardless of the arrest. By taking such a path the novel lacks narrative drive, but as a portrait of two people coming to terms with a life-changing event, it is very powerful.