fiction, reviews

Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

18467818An Untamed State

Roxanne Gay

368 pages

Published: May 2014 by Black Cat, an imprint of Grove Atlantic

Source: Publisher

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

            They held me captive for thirteen days.

            They wanted to break me.

            It was not personal.

            I was not broken.

            This is what I tell myself.

Mireille, a woman visiting her parents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is kidnapped in broad daylight, as her husband and young son looks on helplessly. Her kidnappers, a group of men, demand a ransom of one million dollars, an amount Mireille’s father can afford to pay. When her father refuses to give the kidnappers what they want, it’s Mireille whose life is a stake. For thirteen days, Mireille’s father refuses and the kidnappers do their best to break the young woman in every way possible, repeatedly raping and torturing her. An Untamed State is a book that seizes readers from its beginning and have them going through an abundance of emotions as they journey with Mireille through her ordeal and life after.

I was discussing An Untamed State with Shannon and we both agree that this book is so hard to put into words. There’s so much I could talk about but how?

Before the kidnapping, Mireille’s life was normal. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Mireille grew up in the Midwest before becoming an immigration lawyer in New York. Her father, Sebastien, made as much money as he could in construction before moving back to Haiti with his wife to have his own business. Now a very wealthy man living in a poor country, Sebastien feels as though the world is basically his oyster. Excuse the cliché.

So when Mireille is kidnapped and the ransom announced, Sebastien just knows that he’s going to get his daughter back without a fight. The kidnappers might even give her back for free. As days go by with the kidnappers refusing to budge for the million-dollar ransom, Mirielle’s husband and mother begs Sebastien to pay the ransom. Finally, he pays it.

Damage done, Mirielle will never be the same person again.

The first part of the book deals with Mirielle’s life during her life before and during the thirteen-day ordeal in the form of flashbacks. The second and last part deals with her life afterwards as she tries to heal both mentally and physically and find peace. I found the second part realistic and there were times that I had tears in my eyes.

While the subject matter is dark, readers are left with hope for this character at the book’s end. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

15 thoughts on “Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay”

  1. This sounds like a difficult read but I would be interested in reading it.

  2. Five out of five stars? That’s a book I need to put on my wishlist!

  3. That was a fantastic review. I’m just not sure I could read it. That is one of those subjects I find horribly painful to read. You make it sound so worth it though.

  4. Such a hard book to read and to talk about. In the end I was really glad i read. It is just so powerful, but that is also what makes it so hard to read. I’m so glad that Miri’s narrative was broken up by flashbacks and her husband’s story, otherwise to would have been too much to take.

  5. I want to read this so much, because I just love Gay’s writing on her blog. I just know that it would be so worth it to read, yet I have to admit some reluctance because yeah, talk about painful. Your review is wonderful–thank you.

  6. That’s an amazing first passage, and I love Roxane Gay. How much could a person skim in the first section, if she wanted to? I know that’s chickenshit of me, but I find descriptions of sexual assault very, very difficult to read.

  7. Wow. I want to read this book. Sounds so good. I’m assuming it is fiction.

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