Culture Street

Books

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

On January 27, 2015

By Sophia Whitfield

Roxane Gay's debut novel is the haunting tale of one woman’s desperate attempt to reclaim her life after a harrowing ordeal. Mirielle Duval Jameson narrates her story, a tale of brutality, as she attempts to piece her life back together.

Mirielle is an American born daughter of a wealthy Haitian property magnate. She lives in Miami and is married to Michael, a farm boy from Nebraska. Together they have a young son Christophe. The family returns to Haiti for a holiday. Just outside the walls of her father’s walled sumptuous property in Port-au-Prince Mirielle is taken from her family’s SUV in front of her husband and son. Neighbours watch on but nobody comes to Mirielle’s aid.

She is held captive for 13 days, her captors demanding ransom from her wealthy father. During her captivity Mirielle endures terrible atrocities while locked in a ‘cage’. When she is finally free she wishes she had been killed. She struggles to find herself in a world she once knew. Her husband and son are lost to her.

Mirielle and Michael’s lives seem poles apart. Mirielle is the daughter of a self-made millionaire from a country Michael does not understand. Michael is a farm boy for whom life has been easy. Yet it is Lorraine, Michael’s mother, who Mirielle seeks solace with as she attempts to mend her wounds.

An Untamed State is a startling debut. Gay, herself an American Haitian, shows us the two sides of Haiti, the beauty of the place and the ugliness of the poverty. But it is Mirielle 's voice that resonates, her strength and defiance in the face of such terrible adversity.

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