Please note again that this review will contain some spoilers. I’ll try to write a short review without revealing significant spoilers but if you don’t want to know the plot of the story, please don’t read any further.
This book is part epistolary, part narrative written from the point of view of three major characters in the story. It’s about the unraveling of a marriage by the two characters, Roy and Celestial. The story is quite tragic because it also speaks about how the problem of race is an ever-present reality for people, and how being thrown in the system can irrevocably change your life in an instant.
Roy’s incarceration shows how a life can be upended by the prospect of spending over a decade in prison. People can start out promising a lot of things to each other, but a 12-year prison sentence puts a full stop on future plans. The letter exchanges between Roy and Celestial show how good intentions often don’t survive the reality of being separated physically, of the stigma of having an incarcerated loved one, of the emotional and psychological anguish of the situation. The exchanges show the different kinds of pain for the incarcerated and the one waiting on the outside of prison bars. It shows how tenuous human connections can be, and that the institution of marriage means very little when the bedrock of the relationship is shaken to the core.
The book also shows how difficult it is to reintegrate back to your own family and back to society after being incarcerated for years, and how displaced people are after being released from prison. It’s sad how Roy struggled against feelings of alienation, or not belonging anywhere, of not knowing where to pick up after this major “interruption” happened. He’s a free man, but he couldn’t go “home” because home is simply nowhere to be found now. The house, the structure, might still be standing, but he has lost his place in it when he lost the love of his wife. The institution of marriage cannot enforce love between husband and wife, and despite emotions coming to a boiling point, Roy eventually realizes that Celestial doesn’t love him anymore, and he saw no point in forcing himself on a wife who is now only a wife on paper.
It’s an engaging story, and the writer has a beautiful way with words when describing deep emotions and memories. Despite how things turned out for Roy and Celestial, I actually liked the ending. I also liked the first person narratives because it gives the readers an opportunity to at least see things from the perspective of Roy, Celestial, and (later) Andre. The story shows how a lot of things can really fracture a marriage.