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An Untamed State Paperback – 22 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (22 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802122515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802122513
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 14 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Praise for "An Untamed State" Longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize [A] commanding debut . . . 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 unaffectedboth the reader and the characters withinis 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.""

Book Description

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
Being kidnapped for a ransom can be a terrifying experience. You might think that's obvious, but you probably have no real idea of just how bad it can be...

Mireille, a lawyer and daughter of a wealthy Haitian businessman, is kidnapped in Port au Prince by a group of armed men, wrenched away from her American husband and their young child, and held captive until a ransom of $1 million is paid. As you can imagine, the experience is deeply traumatic for Mireille, but no... you can't really imagine just how traumatic. Roxane Gay can, but there's no way of making it easy for the reader.

An Untamed State is a book of two parts. The first part deals with the kidnapping, the second part with the aftermath. Without getting into boring structural analysis, the manner in which the author divides perspective is relevant to how the book achieves its impact so powerfully. At the beginning it feels like the author is going straight for the kill, taking the reader into the more thrilling kidnap drama action. Oh, if only. By the time you get past Mireille's first day in captivity, you're longing for release yourself in the backstory of her romance and relationship with Michael - but even that is not plain sailing. The divisions go deeper than this however, into male and female, husband and wife, rich and poor, person/non-person, life in USA and life in Haiti - two diametrically opposed views of life with differing values.

Mainly however, the division is within Mireille, who is unable to reconcile who she was before with the person she is now. It goes without saying then that Mireille's experience in captivity is deeply traumatic, and quite honestly, you're spared none of the details.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By booksy on 20 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An Untamed State is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It deals with some very dark subject matter, yet never becomes depressing. It is a tribute to the human spirit and the power of love. In particular, Miri's relationship with her mother in law presents a beautiful story arc - it shows how, sometimes, those we love the most end up betraying us in all manner of small and also significant ways; while others, of whom we have no expectations, can often prove to be our saviours. At no point did anything in this novel ring untrue - I don't know what research Roxane Gay did in relation to kidnapping and ptsd but her writing was so heartfelt and emotional that it never jarred. Ultimately, if you're of a delicate disposition then this novel won't be for you - it's not for the squeamish (although nothing ever felt gratuitous and even the worst elements of Miri's ordeal were handled with deftness and compassion by the author). But if you're after a gripping read that's capable of bringing tears to your eyes, then this novel's a winner.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has the potential to be one of the most shocking, violent, harrowing, uncomfortable, and emotional reading experiences you may ever have in your life. It may also turn out to be one of the most important. Having said all that, the story book opens very well. The opening sentence grabbed me and ensured a purchase for the store owner, and as it turns out, the first chapter is one of the most gripping and terrifying chapters I have ever read.

Be warned, gentle reader: This ain't no fairytale.

A young and happily married couple is violently torn apart by a group of heartless thugs who kidnap the young wife (Mireille Duval Jameson) in front of her husband and young toddler son strapped in the back seat of the family car. It turns out the kidnapping is motivated by revenge against the couple's parents as well as a personal (and very warped) ideology and the book gains even more emotional tension when the family of the kidnapping victim refuses to pay the ransom for their daughter's release.

One has to ask at this point: At what price is this decision made? Who will pay this price? And why would a man - a family man, no less - make such a decision?

Other readers and reviewers have criticised Ms Gay for coming up with an ending they call convenient. In my opinion, flaws in the story telling aspect of this release are an irrelevancy. What happens, or doesn't happen to one of the bad guys is not the book's point. Characterisation is strong. There are really only two "dominant" bad characters and they are well portrayed in the sense that it is easy to hate them every time they make an appearance.

The writing is quietly moving and is of a consistently high level throughout.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't remember the last time I read a book like this. I literally could not put it down-read it in 3 days. As the other review says -truly horrifying but incredibly moving. It is so vividly written, true to life - telling the story of a woman's journey through and following a terrible ordeal, and how those around her react.
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By Deb on 18 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a scary book but good. Roxane really gets into the heart of what can happen to a young woman who has been kidnapped by thugs. If you're not looking for pretty graphic stuff, this isn't for you, but it's not gratuitous just realistic. Some people don't like real realism, so beware. Pretty intense. The only thing I didn't really like was the husband's mother, too gruff on the outside, heart of gold on the inside. She seemed more like a character created for a plot point than a real flesh and blood woman. I liked the book anyway.
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