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An Untamed State by Roxane Gay Review

Title: An Untamed State

Author: Roxane Gay

First published May 6, 2014

368 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780802122513 (ISBN10: 0802122515)

Rating: 4.08


In An Untamed State, Mireille Duval Jameson has the perfect life – a loving husband, a beautiful infant son, and all the wealth and privilege that comes with being the daughter of one of Haiti’s wealthiest men. But all of that changes when she is kidnapped in front of her father’s estate by a gang of armed men.

Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille must endure unimaginable torments as her father refuses to pay the ransom. Amidst the poverty and lawlessness of Haiti, Mireille must fight to survive and find her way back to the person she once was.

An Untamed State is a powerful tale of redemption and the resilience of the human spirit, showcasing Roxane Gay’s stunning talent as a writer.

About the Author

Roxane Gay’s writing can be found in a variety of esteemed publications, including Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, and Best Sex Writing 2012. Her work has been featured in A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other places.

In addition, she is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.

Roxane is a talented author, having written several books, including Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, and the nationally bestselling Difficult Women. Her most recent book, Hunger, was also a New York Times bestseller.

She has even written for Marvel, penning World of Wakanda.

Despite her already impressive body of work, Roxane has several upcoming books in the works. She is also involved in various television and film projects.

Editoral Review

In Roxane Gay’s debut novel, An Untamed State, she delivers a powerful and unflinching portrayal of one woman’s harrowing journey to survive a brutal kidnapping and captivity in Haiti. Gay is an accomplished writer, known for her essays and memoirs that tackle issues of race, gender, and social justice, and she brings these same themes to her fiction.

The novel opens with Mireille Duval Jameson, a successful attorney in Miami, returning to her family’s home in Port-au-Prince for a visit. She is the daughter of a wealthy Haitian businessman and an American mother and has the privilege of living a comfortable life in the United States.

However, her return to Haiti quickly turns into a nightmare when she is abducted by a gang of armed men and held for ransom. What follows is a brutal and graphic depiction of her captivity and the unrelenting violence inflicted upon her.

Gay does not spare the reader any details in her descriptions, and the tension and terror are palpable throughout. Mireille’s resilience and strength in the face of such unspeakable horrors are remarkable, and her journey towards healing is both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

Interspersed with Mireille’s story are flashbacks that reveal her upbringing in Haiti, the complex dynamics of her family, and the history of the country’s political turmoil. Gay deftly weaves together these threads in a way that contextualizes Mireille’s experiences and sheds light on the larger issues of poverty, corruption, and violence that plague Haiti.

While An Untamed State is an unflinching portrayal of trauma, it is also a story of love, family, and the enduring human spirit. The relationships between Mireille and her husband, parents, and son are integral to the plot, and Gay’s exploration of the complexities and contradictions within these relationships is masterful.

The only weakness in the novel is perhaps its pacing, which at times feels uneven. Some sections dragged on, while others were rushed, and the transitions between different timelines could be jarring.

Overall, An Untamed State is a stunning debut novel that demands to be read. It is a sobering yet necessary exploration of the human capacity for survival in the face of unimaginable cruelty.

Gay’s writing is unapologetically raw, and her characters are vividly drawn, making this an unforgettable reading experience. For fans of literary fiction and those interested in issues of social justice and human rights, An Untamed State is a must-read.

However, readers should be aware that the graphic depictions of violence and sexual assault may be triggering for some. With that said, Gay’s work is important and necessary in our current political climate, and this novel is a testament to her talent as a writer.

Rating: 4.5/5

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