An Untamed State Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have already earned her an enthusiastic audience. In An Untamed State, she delivers an assured debut about a woman kidnapped for ransom, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over 13 days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath.
Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.
An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 35 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||May 06, 2014|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #79,938 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#3,004 in Women's Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#3,138 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#6,013 in Suspense (Audible Books & Originals)
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2019
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We learn about her life through the memories she experiences while she's captive. How she grew up, watching her talented father chafe against the ways in which he was treated as "lesser than" because of his status as an immigrant. Her relationship with her siblings, especially her sister. The way she and her husband Michael met and fell in love. Their privileged life together in Miami, where she's an immigration attorney and he's an engineer. And then when she gets back, how very unable she is to resume that life. The second half of the novel relates Mireille's flight to Michael's family farm in Nebraska to heal...or more accurately, recover enough to be able to deal. The wounds she's suffered aren't the kind that really heal, after all.
The motif of fairy tales is everywhere, from the beginning, where the book literally opens with "once upon a time", to the end, in which Mireille is given the chance to confront one of her captors. When I first read it, the ending bothered me. It seemed too convenient, to tie things up too neatly. Life doesn't work that way, and otherwise the book is deeply, unflinchingly realistic. When you think about it through the context of fairy tales, though, it has that kind of wish fulfillment that the modern versions of these stories often do. But the bulk of the story is filled with the things that get cut out of the tales for today's world: the violence inflicted on Mireille is completely unvarnished and it is very difficult to read.
And that difficulty of reading is the only reason I'm not more enthusiastic about this novel. Roxane Gay is a phenomenal writer and the book is compelling and hard to put down. She draws realistic, captivating characters who have shades of gray and consistent internal logic, and the way she subverts Mireille's "fairy tale" narrative of her life with Michael by showing us its sometimes-ugly underbelly is brilliant. I could go on forever about how incredibly-written it is. But with the subject matter being what it is, it's hard to recommend this book widely. There's a great deal of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. If that's something you're able to handle, I'd definitely recommend it.
In the late 1970's, I traveled to Haiti with a missionary group. Port au Prince was a cauldron of activity and filled with color. The houses were painted brilliant blues and pastel pinks and the markets were filled with the press of bodies engaged in the commerce of everyday life. In my early 20's, I had briefly considered the life of a missionary. Haiti quickly changed my mind. Accosted by beggars on every side, one day in a busy market, a double amputee tugged at my skirt tail. His stumps were lashed to a board that he manuvered in and out of the crowd. Separated for a moment from my group, I will never forget that small moment of fear. During our stay we helped paint a church, attended services, and shared a meal with some Haitian church members. The meal included chicken feet. How can I forget the orphans who lived in rooms at the back of the house where we were staying. The oldest girl looked to be about 12 and assumned responsibility for 5 to 6 younger children. She appeared unfazed. Many families, unable to provide for their children, left them at churches and other places, established as orphanages.
Gay's novel brings back all my memories of Haiti. Such a land of contrasts. Our group never visited the palatial estates. I do remember a huge ocean liner in the harbor and I remember thinking, even then, how far away from reality the ocean liner seemed.
Gay's novel rang true for me, in every way. Mireille's experiences at the hands of her kidnappers were violent. Gay handles the narrative expertly not forsaking her character in any sense of the telling.
Secondary characters are so richly wonderful. Gay provides the background that allows the reader to know what makes them tick. Occasional chapters give us husband, Michael's POV. Can you imagine what it feels like to have your wife kidnapped right in front of your eyes and not be able to do a thing? Gay takes us there.
This is a rich, multi-layered novel with difficult thematic issues, which Gay handles deftly. I missed an opportunity to hear this author speak at a nearby college. If the occasion should arise again, I won't make the same mistake.