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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-10-19 01:38
Dedicated to All Women
An Untamed State - Roxane Gay

I previously wrote a small post about Roxane Gay's novel, "An Untamed State," here: http://carissagreen50.booklikes.com/post/1135645/reading-order-roxane-gay-edition.

 

I find I have more to say about the book. I don't know if this post really needs a spoiler alert, because its subject is right in the first paragraph, and I still haven't entirely made up my mind about trigger warnings, but consider this to be both: The novel is about a woman named Mirielle who is kidnapped by a gang in Haiti and held for ransom. Because her father refuses to pay, she is held for thirteen days, and every terrible thing that could happen to her pretty much does.

 

Gay pulls no punches, and the reading experience is brutal, but not in an exploitative way. The pages keep turning, turning, as you hope to get through the worst. But what is the worst, and how does Mirielle get through? 

 

What I like best about this book is how it is a story about women - specifically about how women survive, how they help each other survive, and the ways they move forward when it is the only thing possible to do. 

 

Mirielle is an amazing character, but just as much, I loved her abrasive, strong, loving, take-no-crap mother-in-law, Lorraine. If we were casting "An Untamed State" for film, the Nebraska farmwife would be played by Sissy Spacek. Honorable mention to Mirielle's sister, Mona. 

 

Gay dedicates this book "For women, the world over." Throughout history, it has so often been women's lot to survive tragedy and violation, to suffer through hardships not of their own creation, and to help each other pick up the pieces, and find a way to go on. I haven't read this version of that story before, and I appreciated it.

 

P.S. - at the beginning of her Acknowledgements following the narrative, Gay makes a cheeky remark about her brothers; it was a kind of release, reading that bit of humor, as if she was giving us permission as readers to let Mirielle's story go a little bit, and live our lives happily again. 

 

-cg

 

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review 2015-07-20 00:00
An Untamed State
An Untamed State - Roxane Gay Mirielle Duval Jameson's fairy tale life is shattered when, during a visit to Haiti with her American husband and their child, she is kidnapped. Her father, a self-made millionaire, refuses to pay the ransom; and so Mirielle's captors take their revenge - pushing her beyond what she previously thought possible to endure. An Untamed State is a stunning achievement: a compelling, unflinching, deeply moving and unmissable novel.
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 wilful 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.


Searing, unflinching account of a woman's kidnapping in Port-au-Prince - distressing enough but it is the rebuilding of her shattered life that is the most heart-wrenching and haunting part of this great novel
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review 2015-02-25 00:00
An Untamed State
An Untamed State - Roxane Gay AN UNTAMED STATE, BY ROXANE GAY

This was, I think, a misunderstanding on my part. When I decided to do this challenge, I asked everybody I know who likes to read for recommendations. This recommendation came from a lovely girl who has bangs, wears sundresses and loves light-hearted, funny, very well-written romances. I didn't read the blurb or anything about this book, other than what she told me about it, I only looked at the cover and, although it's darker than I would have expected from the type of book she usually reads, it has a girl with what could be called her hair in the wind, a palm leaf and warm colors. I would usually associate "untamed" with "freedom", so the title wasn't much help, either. All she told me about it was that "it's a bit sad, but has a happy ending" (now I have to wonder if she was being ironic or if she actually considers that ending to be happy). Also, she said it was set in Haiti, but, for some reason, in my head it turned into Tahiti (maybe because they're so similar in Portuguese). So, this was definitely not what I was expecting.

Also, once again I have committed the unforgivable sin of recommending a book to someone before I read it. I am very sorry, jordstarrr​. Not because I didn't like this book, it is very well-written, but it's not the kind of book you recommend to someone unless you're very sure they would want to read it. So, I'll give you another recommendation. Check your inbox :)

Synopsis: Mireille has been kidnapped in broad daylight in her parent's country, Haiti. Having lived a life of privilege, she's hardly prepared for the next 13 days, while her father refuses to pay her ransom.

Overall enjoyment: For the reasons I pointed above, I had all my mental defenses down when I started reading it. It was not a happy experience. This book should come with all kinds of trigger warnings.

Plot: There isn't much of it, now that I think about it. The developments happen pretty much as you expect them. The first part of the book deals with Mireille's captivity, the second part is her struggle to come to terms with it; the focus is really not in what's happening, but how the characters deal with it.

Characters: Very well constructed, they carry the "lack" of plot very well.

World/setting: She paints a very vivid portrait of Haiti and the type of society it was. I have never been to Haiti, but I can surely understand the latent violence surrounding Mireille, all the strangers' apparent apathy in the face of her attack and the lack of trust in official organs.

Writing style: A bit more repetitive than I thought was necessary. Of course, after what happened, it was to be expected that Mireille would dwell constantly on what happened to her, even against her own will. Also, inserting her memories of happy times between the descriptions of what's happening to her in the present was a good narrative choice, but maybe a bit of overkill to make her suffering more real.

Representation: The book is set in Haiti, and many characters are black.

Political correctness: This is a very obviously politically aware book. She talks about the unsustainability of Haiti's social problems, with rich people living like magnates and poor people living in misery, and all the violence and aggression that causes. She also talks a lot about women, sexism, racism and many other issues. Michael's (Mireille's husband) behavior in the second part of the book is deplorable, but not at all unbelievable: some men are real idiots when it comes to women's sexual trauma (the very first time I got to stitch up an actual person was when one of my colleagues tried to hug a rape victim when she started crying and she almost bit a chunk of his arm off). It's a good thing that he straightened himself out later, but I still have a few reservations about their relationship. From what she tells in the first part of the book, it doesn't sound very much like a healthy, happy relationship at all.

And I have just remembered why I don't usually read this kind of book.

Up next: The Under Dog, by Agatha Christie
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review 2014-12-29 00:00
An Untamed State
An Untamed State - Roxane Gay Wow. I don't know if I've ever had such a visceral reaction to a book before. I had to put it down and walk around several times to just absorb what was happening. It is a powerful, powerful book. It almost goes without saying that this would be an extremely difficult read for abuse survivors, but I've yet to read anything else that deals with this type of violence and transgression so openly, honestly, and fearlessly. This novel perfectly juggles themes of identity, family, love, and power, and does so with such a natural voice. I cannot wait to read more by Roxane Gay.
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review 2014-11-15 19:29
Sweet baby JESUS, that was one difficult ride
An Untamed State - Roxane Gay

One very well written difficult ride.

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