Summary

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177

An American Marriage is a quasi-epistolary novel told through letters and from different viewpoints of the main characters, Celestial and Roy. Celestial and Roy are a young, successful black couple whose already tempestuous marriage is upended by an accusation of rape against Roy, which ultimately proves to be false. However, in a reflection of America’s (unjust) criminal justice system, Roy is charged with the crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. As a result, Celestial and Roy are left to maintain their marriage through letters and only the occasional visits.

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Complicating their chance of resuming their marriage after Roy’s release from prison is Andre, a mutual friend of Roy and Celestial, who forms a deeper relationship with Celestial in Roy’s absence. Even before Roy is released from prison, the letters between Celestial and him reflect a growing distance and the difficulty of nurturing a marriage without sharing a similar space. While the novel is mostly occupied with themes of fidelity and commitment, it also tackles smaller themes, like the parent–child relationship and forgiveness.

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Themes