An Untamed State

Roxane Gay. Grove/Black Cat, $17 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2251-3
Poet and short story writer Gay’s first novel delivers a searing portrait of a politically and economically divided Haiti, as seen through the lens of one family’s nightmare. Mireille Duval Jameson, a Haitian-born young woman, is on vacation from Miami and visiting her upper-class parents in Port-au-Prince when she is kidnapped at gunpoint. Her captors regularly extract hefty ransoms from their wealthy victims, but in this case, Mireille’s too-proud father refuses to pay up until it’s nearly too late, resulting in his daughter suffering 13 days of increasingly savage sexual torture. When Mireille regains her freedom, it’s only the first step in the shaken family’s uncertain recovery. Though the opening kidnapping feels like a scene from a particularly stilted thriller, Gay soon finds a more assured footing as she narrows in on the pain each character both endures and inflicts. Mireille’s desperate attempts to wrestle control from her kidnappers by sacrificing her body are deeply felt, but it’s the author’s unflinching portrayal of Mireille’s shattered physical and psychological state once she’s rejoined her husband and infant son that is at once disturbing and frighteningly resonant. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/17/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
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