Review: An Untamed State

October 7, 2014 Whitney Review 0 Comments

Review: An Untamed StateAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Published by Grove Press on May 6, 2014
Genres: General Fiction
Source: Bought

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.

Fond of:
An Untamed State puts your stomach in knots.  The thing I liked most about Gay’s novel is that she does not go ultra graphic with the rape and torture scenes.  It is enough for the reader to realize the extremity of the situation but was not sickened enough to cease my reading.  I also liked that it showed the after-effects of Mireille’s captivity.  This included Mireille’s PTSD, inability to cope and the lack of understanding by those around her.

Not Fond of:
Like The Commander, I found Mireille arrogant.  Outside of her bubble she didn’t look around her and instead got a babysitter and had wine on the beach with her husband.  Even after her release, her stubbornness irked me.  People couldn’t understand I get that, but the refusal of her own husband who only tried to help got to me.

Disturbing, uncomfortable and makes you wiggle in your seat — a compulsive read.  An Untamed State is a novel you need to take a breather for but are unwilling to surface.


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