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Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short ...
Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have already earned her an enthusiastic audience. In An Untamed State, she delivers an assured debut about a woman kidnapped for ransom, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over thirteen days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath.
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. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.
“From the astonishing first line to the final scene, An Untamed State is magical and dangerous. I could not put it down. Pay attention to Roxane Gay; she's here to stay.”—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and Leaving Atlanta
“[Haiti’s] better scribes, among them Edwidge Danticat, Franketienne, Madison Smartt Bell, Lyonel Trouillot, and Marie Vieux Chavet, have produced some of the best literature in the world. . . . Add to their ranks Roxane Gay, a bright and shining star.”—Kyle Minor, author of In the Devil’s Territory, on Ayiti
Longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize
“[A] commanding début . . . Mireille’s struggle to maintain a sense of self while being denied her freedom produces the novel’s most powerful chapters.”—New Yorker
“Roxane Gay’s riveting debut, An Untamed State, captivates from its opening sentence and doesn’t let go. . . . Let this be the year of Roxane Gay: you’ll tear through An Untamed State, but ponder it for long after.”—Nolan Feeney, Time.com
“A fairy tale . . . its complex and fragile moral arrived at through great pain and high cost. . . . Perhaps Haiti, too, is a beautiful princess, well-versed in the vagaries of men, still searching for a happily ever after.” —Holly Bass, The New York Times Book Review
“Poignant . . . haunting . . . When Mireille is finally freed, her rocky adjustment harkens to that of the mother in Emma Donoghue's Room. . . . Gay writes of her homeland beautifully, describing it in the conflicting, nuanced way that will ring familiar to Americans whose parents hail from troubled lands. . . . Gorgeous writing . . . A wonderful and affecting read.”—Rasha Madkour, Associated Press
“Gay may be working in territory many American readers know through the lyrical stories of Edwidge Danticat, but her style is wholly her own: direct, bracing and propulsive. . . . [A] smart, searing novel.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“To say that An Untamed State ‘tells the story’ of Mireille Duval Jameson - an American lawyer, wife, and new mother, who, while visiting her Haitian parents in Port Au Prince, falls victim to the wave of kidnappings plaguing that city - would be inadequate. Rather, Gay compels her readers to breathe and bleed [it]. . . . Brutally and vividly rendered.” —Abby Frucht, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Bold . . . A terrific read. . . . The character development of Gay’s protagonist, Mireille, is particularly well-crafted and nuanced; her portrayal of a woman who fights her strongest fight to resist being defeated by her captors is compelling and agonizingly felt by the reader. . . . This novel . . . will reward the reader.” —Jim Carmin, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“I applaud Gay’s courage: She writes candidly, vividly, and necessarily . . . You will find it difficult to resist her flawless pacing [and] sharp, clear prose.” —Ariel Gonzalez, The Miami Herald
“Set in Haiti, Roxane Gay’s first novel, An Untamed State, is a roundhouse kick to notions of privilege.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair (Hot Type)
“Wrenching . . . Vividly written.” —Jennifer Weiner, USA Today
“Clear your schedule now! Once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down. An Untamed State is a novel of hope intermingled with fear. . . . It is written at a pace that will match your racing heart.”—Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light
“A gripping psychological portrait of how trauma remakes the body to respond only to itself . . . Fans of Gay’s work as an editor at The Rumpus and a columnist for Salon (among other places) will see a lush, sensual side to her writing here, turned to describe brutal facts of subjugation and punishment, the agony of waiting to be rescued and the protection of the brain." —Ellen Wernecke, The Onion AV Club
“Harrowing: truly, it harrows. With iron teeth it pulls up things that do not want to be pulled up. . . . Remarkable.” —NPR
“Excellent . . . Brilliant, eye opening, and necessary. . . . Gay’s prose is direct and muscular, unflinchingly confronting the reality she’s created. . . . To call it ‘hard to put down’ is an understatement; I lost sleep over it, and won’t forget it anytime soon.” —Alison Hallett, Portland Mercury
“[Roxane Gay] has written one of the most unsettling books of the year. And she’s just getting started. . . . Dark, gripping . . . It’s a compelling and at times painful read that addresses the issues of economic privilege, immigration, and sexual assault.” —Tomi Obaro, Chicago Magazine
“A gripping tale of a young mother ensnared in Haiti’s explosive class struggle.” —Natalie Beach, O Magazine (“15 Titles to Pick Up Now”)
“An Untamed State is breathless, artful, disturbing and original. I won’t ever forget it.” —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings
“Poised to affect anyone who reads the book. . . . Gay weaves a story that is thrilling and readable and, surprisingly, incredibly enjoyable. It is, ultimately, about survival, but walking away from the story unaffected—both the reader and the characters within—is impossible.” —Jessi Cape, The Austin Chronicle
“There are times when reading a novel is painful. Not because the prose is lacking or the narrative lags, but because the subject matter verges on the unbearable. Roxane Gay’s debut novel, An Untamed State, falls under this last category. And yet, you must read it anyway. For beyond missing out on a story of such emotional power, you will miss out, as well, on this emerging writer’s abundant talent and insight, all on stunning display here. . . . An Untamed State is a rich, beautifully crafted novel, which should establish Roxane Gay as a writer who has something important to say and who knows how to say it.” —Susan Buttenwieser, The Brooklyn Rail
“An Untamed State is the kind of book you have to keep putting down because you can’t believe how good it is. Awesome, powerful, impossible to ignore, Roxane Gay is a literary force of nature. An Untamed State arrives like a hurricane.” —Mat Johnson, author of Pym
“Roxane Gay is a rockstar talent who’s already left her mark on the literary world, and her dazzling debut novel is certain to cement her place. . . . [a] haunting tale.” —Morgan Ribera, Bustle (“May 2014’s Best Books”)
“Riveting.” —Anjali Enjeti, Paste Magazine (“The Best Novels of 2014 (So Far)”)
“[A] startling debut novel . . . There are no easy answers to be found in An Untamed State, and Gay, in elegant, fierce, poetic prose that evokes early-career Margaret Atwood, forces her characters to reach across all borders to find some final sense of reason. It’s a hard-won discovery, surely, but one absolutely worth the journey. This is a novel not easily forgotten.” —Tod Goldberg, Las Vegas Weekly (4/5 stars)
“An Untamed State is a harrowing, suspenseful novel about the connections between sexual violence and political rage, narrated in a voice at once traumatized and eerily controlled. Roxane Gay is a remarkable writer, an astute observer of Haitian society and a deeply sympathetic, unflinching chronicler of the compromises people make in order to survive under the most extreme conditions.” —Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and Nine Inches
“[A] riveting debut novel . . . There is such a staggering sense of strength, confidence and integrity to Gay's telling. . . . An Untamed State is a gem, blasted into beauty by the world's harshest conditions. This gripping debut has set the table for many great works to come.” Margaret Wappler, Bookforum
“[A] superbly written and excoriating first tale of terror and suspense . . . Gay is a daring and transfixing storyteller. . . . Ferocious, gripping, and unforgettable.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“From the astonishing first line to the final scene, An Untamed State is magical and dangerous. I could not put it down. Pay attention to Roxane Gay; she’s here to stay.” —Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and Leaving Atlanta
“Harrowing . . . It’s terrifying, this novel, but heartbreaking, because [Mireille’s] relationships are part of the dilemma. . . . I felt this powerfully.” —John Freeman, BOMB
“Gay brilliantly writes of the story’s external events while skillfully capturing Mireille’s internal anguish.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A simmering, sometimes brutal examination of love, privilege, the meaning of home, and the horrific damage that can come to women at the hands of men. . . . It would be a spoiler to say who does the most to help Mireille out of the horrors and back into life, but there is someone. And in that memorably lovely arc, An Untamed State — a novel partly about betrayal by one’s own family — becomes a novel about familial redemption, too.”—Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe
“A harrowing and emotionally cleareyed vision of one woman’s ordeal during and after her kidnapping in Haiti. . . remarkable . . . A cutting and resonant debut.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A searing portrait of a politically and economically divided Haiti . . . Deeply felt . . . Disturbing and frighteningly resonant.”—Publishers Weekly
“Incredible and unflinching.”—Jessica Valenti, The Guardian U.S.
Posted July 4, 2014
I read the book in a less than a weekend. I could not put it down. A difficult subject that was written so well. This book was recommended to me and I cannot stop recommending it.
I would purchase any book that this author writes in the future
Brutally honest treatment of a difficult topic. Well developed characters that are hard to forget
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Posted January 16, 2015
This was a well written story. A powerful voice on sexual violence against women for political/economic gains. It is a story that could be told anywhere into today's climate. While the book is a work of fiction it rings true for some many women.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 4, 2014
This is an unforgettable book. I loved Roxane Gay's writing in Ayiti, and here she is even stronger. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down.
Mireille, the main character, is powerful and compelling, even when she is most broken. I've never read a character like this, and Gay draws her with such mercy and precision, that Mireille leaps out of the pages and runs across the room. She's one of those characters you don't forget. Ever.
I can't say enough to praise this book, the storyline, the characters, the writing. Phenomenal.
Posted June 25, 2014
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Posted January 26, 2015
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Posted June 14, 2014
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Posted February 27, 2015
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