Book Review: An Untamed State-Roxane Gay


Fear. What will it do to you when you are pushed to your limit?  Will you grow, will you shrink? Do you become more of the human you were meant to be, or do you retreat into yourself? Fear tests the best of us; when we’re not looking, its unveiled face reveals its truth. Roxane Gay is no stranger to gritty writing. When she created this story of a women dealing with the mass of fear, her pages turned quickly from a literary novel into an almost real-to-life first hand account of the brutality of fear and all its monsters.  If you know Roxane Gay’s writing, then you know that she can encompass many things in her writing at once This book is layered, texturized, has dimensions. It’s so much more then what is written on the page. There is only one way to read this book: with a deep inhale of breath.

Mireille Duval-Jameson didn’t think her life would change so drastically. She is young, successful, a wife, a mother, and daughter to a rich Haitian father who owns most of the construction industry in Haiti. As an American born to Haitian immigrants she learned to love her land of Haiti and appreciate the beauty it had to offer. However, the very land that made her, betrayed her as she is kidnapped from her family and held at a high ransom. The brutality, the torture she endures for thirteen days is incomprehensible. Mireille loses all sense of who she is as fear and lost hope swallow her whole. Roxane recounts the gruesome details and makes the reader feel Mireille’s pain. A love story webs throughout the novel as we also see the depth of her and her husband’s, Michael, love for one another.  The crimes that are committed against a woman and her body are not sugar coated or glossed over. Gay makes sure we understand the severity of what is happening, not only physically but mentally. If fear were a thick blanket, this novel would be buried in it.

There is so much about this book that makes it incredible. When I finally finished it, I shivered all over, engulfed in both anger and anguish for Mireille’s life. This book isn’t just about a kidnapping, and Gay challenges the reader to look beyond that. Her writing is absolutely riveting, I was hooked on page 1. Roxane Gay wants you to feel every hit and stab and prod that Mireille and women face when brutalized. The author depicts the psychological aftermath of kidnapping quite well too. It was raw and painful when we see the damage that is created inside Mireille. Amidst the grit and grime, there is a sweetness when the dynamic of a loving husband is intertwined between the chains of sadism. Even then, the fear and damage that is brought upon by men leaves the protagonist and maybe even you, the reader, to question women’s trust with men. Sexual abuse is real and happens everywhere, not just in Haiti. On character development alone, Gay deserves all the praise. The dynamics and relationships between the people are amazing, even the most inhumane characters.  I would highly recommended this book, but it is absolutely an adult book with a lot of mature subjects that are hard to handle. This book can’t help but be seared into your brain, so before you read it, just be prepared to feel everything.


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