Tayari Jones’ novel An American Marriage has won the Women’s Prize For Fiction.
Described as a “timely commentary on modern American life”, it tells the story of a “marriage shattered by racial injustice”.
The novel has already won rave reviews from TV host Oprah Winfrey, who is said to be planning a movie adaptation, and former US president Barack Obama.
Anna Burns’ Booker Prize-winning novel Milkman was also on the shortlist.
US author Jones, who has published four novels, was hailed by judges as a “voice we need now perhaps more than ever”.
Professor Kate Williams, chairwoman of the judges, called the novel a “wonderful book, heartbreaking and heartwarming”.
“It is a marriage broken up by racial injustice but on this big, political scale,” she said.
“It is a big, timely story on what is going on in the world.”
She said the meeting between judges had been “long and passionate” and the decision was a “close-run thing”.
“This is an exquisitely intimate portrait of a marriage shattered by racial injustice,” Prof Williams said.
“It is a story of love, loss and loyalty, the resilience of the human spirit painted on a big political canvas – that shines a light on today’s America. We all loved this brilliant book.”
The shortlist also featured The Silence Of The Girls by Pat Barker; My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite; Ordinary People by Diana Evans; and Circe by Madeline Miller.
The author was presented with a £30,000 prize at the award ceremony in central London.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world”.