Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State

There’s no room for such distinction in a country where too many people have to claw for what they need and still have nothing to hold.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay is the story of a woman that gets kidnapped in Haiti for ransom. It gets interesting when her father decides to be an ass and not pay the ransom. He soon realizes that the kidnappers are dead serious.

“You will have to be strong,” my father said. I marveled at his ability to state the obvious, to say the most useless things.

Mireille endures 13 days of Hell before her father pays up. In the meantime, the only thing that keeps her breathing are thoughts of her son and husband. Yet, many times through her ordeal and even thereafter, she states that she’s already dead. A strong commentary on violence against women and rape.

My sarcasm doesn’t really work in the country.

The memory of my life, the weight of it, threatened to break my body more than any man could. I needed to be no one so I might survive.

I’ve read other works by Roxane Gay. So, while I like this book, I am also mildly disappointed. Her fictional voice sounds too close to her autobiographical voice. This story, too, shares many themes with events of her own personal life. It’s almost as if the line between fictional writer and autobiographical writer gets blurred to an uncomfortable degree. Perhaps that is the draw-back when fictional writers decide to share too much about their personal lives.

I wanted to tear the skin from her face so I could see the blood of a woman who would stand by and do nothing while another woman endured what was being done to me.

In the end, Mireille is pushed to forgive her father. We know, however, that she’s lying. As a reader, I was really bothered by this plot point. I, personally, think he wasn’t even worth the lie at all. The expenditure of energy would not be affordable even for that. But, to each their own, right?

I didn’t forgive my father. I lied because that lie cost me less than the truth would have cost him.

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