I just finished An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, and I am hesitant to say it was good. It was heavy and beautifully written and captivating, but I can’t call it good. “Good” reduces it.
Gay brings us into the mind of Mirielle, a Haitian-American who is kidnapped and raped during a visit home to see her parents. The title is a reference to the animal that she is reduced to at the hands of these men, these men who rob her of her safety, her confidence, and her ability to be a mother or a wife. They rob her of her ability to do anything beyond survive. She tells herself that nothing can break her, but by the end of the novel, she admits that she died during those thirteen days.
I am still reeling from this novel. I kept turning back to look at the picture of Gay and to read the words, “this is her first novel” to remind myself that this was a work of fiction. It felt so real. I don’t know anything about Gay’s personal life or how she filled this story with such roaring emotion, but it felt so real*. I feltthis book.
“There is nothing you cannot do when you are no one.”
“I became two women– the one who remembered everything and the one who remembered nothing. This required a delicate balance.”
“In impossible circumstances one is faced with impossible choices.”– Sebastien, Mirielle’s father, who does not quite understand the meaning of this.
*Edit: I read this interview with Gay after writing my review. It gives some insight into her background.