The premise of this book is horrifying yet not too far off from the reality of being black in America. There is a line in this book that says the fate of a black man is to be carried by six or judged by twelve. Whether each character comes from a small town or large, money or lack thereof, know their fathers or not, they all carry some type of weight. This weight either becomes firmly rooted or shifts once Roy Hamilton, a young and freshly married man is falsely accused of raping a woman and is sentenced to 12 years in prison.
This novel is about the time he spends there, mostly told through letters to and from his wife, and then what is left of his life (and how he can start anew) upon release.
This is not a love story, entirely. This is a story about marriage. Love and marriage are not mutually exclusive, but one is a feeling and devotion while the other is an institution and a duty. This book tackles what this means, and how each can be affected, or not, with one partner gone while the other is left with half an empty bed.
This book took my emotions all over – I was not sure what I was rooting for as I turned each page. Did I want love and marriage to overcome a horrible obstacle? Did I need that for myself? Or did I want it to end, and allow each character to make their peace with their pasts because certainly how can you come back from becoming a stranger to the love of your life?
I would recommend this book to those who can change their perspectives even when you’re angry and do not want to. Even when your upbringing tells you what should be right given a situation, even when a man is innocent and has everything taken from him, you need to be able to see that maybe all he had, to begin with, was fantasy. Maybe that is all we have, after all.