Wednesday 1 April 2015

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay



Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have already earned her an enthusiastic audience. In An Untamed State, she delivers an assured debut about a woman kidnapped for ransom, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over thirteen days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath.

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.


Let me first start by saying that I don't feel as though I could give this book the praise that it deserves, nothing I say is going to be able to convey how I feel about this book, it may be a work of fiction, however, these things happen (more often than we probably would like to admit), and it is only an excellent writer that can bring about the feelings that I have even after sitting for a couple weeks after finishing this novel.

So in this story we follow Mireille whom goes back to Haiti to visit her parents, and winds up getting kidnapped (this is not a spoiler!). Mireille and her husband live a pampered life in the US, she is fully willing to admit to this, they have everything that they need and enjoy dinner parties with friends, and having the best of everything. They also have a small child that they adore and were thinking of having more.

What I loved about this novel was the way that Gay was not afraid to tackle the tough issues, not only the kidnapping, but everything that went along with it, and everything that happens after. Even though it was only 13 days that she was gone, you truly can see how she is really trapped for the rest of her life, and how things will never be the same for her. I have never read a book (besides a memoir) that is able to rip my heart out so much for the victim in the story, you wish and wish for her that it is all a bad dream, and that she will wake up and be back with her family again. The characters were beautifully written, even the ones that you want to detest. Every one of them brought something new and interesting to the story, whether it was to make you hate them, or love them. 

The book was told in alternating chapters of Mireille either during her kidnapping, or her remembering things from before she was kidnapped, either from childhood or when she was older dating Michael, or when they were first married, both perspectives were heart wrenching, because you knew that even when this ordeal was over, nothing would ever be the same for her again.

If you are looking for a serious read that covers many topics and do not have any trigger warnings about sexual violence towards women, then this is a novel for you! I absolutely give it a 5/5.

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