Review: AN UNTAMED STATE by Roxane Gay

An Untamed StateAN UNTAMED STATE By Roxane Gay

Grove Press, Black Cat (May 2014) Women’s Fiction / 368 pages

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.

Not always easy to read, but impossible to put down, this book captures the reader and doesn’t turn you loose until the last page.

The first half of the book is Mireille’s ordeal at the hands of her captives. They systematically break her down until even she has to deny that Mireille exists to endure their torture. In her mind she becomes nothing because it doesn’t matter what happens to nothing.

The last half is her powerful journey back to herself as friends and family struggle to comprehend what she has been through and how to help.

Ms. Gay’s writing is exceptional. If I had to find it flaw it would be the amount of backstory that was integrated into the first half of the book. Most of it was necessary but the constant digression was a bit distracting sometimes. Still, I highly recommend this powerful, haunting journey of a victim who becomes not only a survivor, but an overcomer.

Reviewed by the Eclectic Express for the April 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

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