Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Title: An Untamed State
Author: Roxane Gay
Publisher: Corsair
Pages: 384
Genres: Thiller, Suspense

An Untamed State

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.
For some unknown reason, I had an idea that this book was going to be about a kidnapping that turns into a love story. I could not have been more hideously wrong.

The story of privileged Haitian Mireille, her kidnapping for ransom and her father's refusal to pay was harrowing. The first half presents plenty of graphic portrayals of violence and rape which I found to be quite tearful and triggering. The second half of the book focuses on the aftermath, the physical and mental effects of such a traumatic experience. The aftermath was most interesting to me because of the descriptions of the mental and physical price Mireille paid for her survival. Its not often that the reader is given such an intimate look at the precarious mental state of a victim after an extremely traumatic event.

I truly feel like this book opened my eyes to the reality of Haiti before the 2010 earthquake; which (if I'm honest) was the first time I had ever heard of the country. I love how An Untamed State painted such a real unapologetic look at a Haiti polarised by huge divides in wealth. I feel like it had a lot to say about the exploitation of women and boy, did the messages get through!

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