Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 24, 2021

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay - 2014 - 368 Pages


An Untamed State by Roxane Gay - 2014 - 368 pages

An Untamed State, the debut novel of Roxane Gay, centers on the kidnapping of a young Haitian woman from one of wealthiest families in the country.  Once you start reading An Untamed State you may find it hard to stop.  

Mirelle is visiting her super rich parents with her husband, from Nebraska.  They live in Miami where she is an immigration attorney and he very successful in construction.  Gay powerfully contrasts the life of her family to the common people of Port-au-Prince.  Her kidnappers demand a million dollars for her release. Her father refuses to pay, saying he will not deal with kidnappers as it is playing into corruption.  The kidnappers begin to torture her with multiple gang rapes, cigarette burns, knife cuts, starvation and confinement in a cage. The lead 

kidnappers says this is caused by the huge income disparities supported by men like her father. Thirteen miserable days go by before the ransom is paid and she is released.

Upon return home she is horribly stressed, diagnosed with a form of post traumatic stress which renders her husband’s embrace horrifying.  We follow her through months of the impact of being tortured.  

As the story unfolds we learn of her once very loving relationship to her husband, a blue eyed blond.  She can never bring herself to forgive her father for taking so long to pay the ransom.

The closing is very powerful.   

Prospective readers should know this is a very explicit work with numerous scenes of sexual abuse.  I found this a very powerful work but I would not give it to my young adult daughters to read.

Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects. She also has a newsletter, The Audacity From

I also read this month two of her short stories from Difficult Women.

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

From a writing perspective, I think the way she paces the story is remarkable.
And I understand your reluctance to share the traumatic elements of the story with your daughters, but I also think there is a lot of value in witnessing the fight and the resilience of the main character. It's not a book that I've ever recommended to anyone though.