Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Monday, April 13, 2015

State Untamed

If you haven't read An Untamed State already, I suggest you run and not walk to the bookstore, library, or your favorite online book purveyor. Roxane Gay's account of one Haitian woman's kidnapping and subsequent release is a powerful, raw reflection on faith, mental strength, and the power of love. It's a book about Haiti, about Miami, about a new baby and a couple madly in love. It's about a father's betrayal, a wife's bitter silence, a gang of angry men with violent pasts and sad, violent futures. It's about money, poverty, beauty, and death. It's about revenge, and it's about healing. An Untamed State has earned rave reviews all over the net and beyond, but I wouldn't feel right about reading the book and not promoting it myself, from my own humble corner of the world.

Readers be warned: An Untamed State is not for the faint of heart. The book is rough and emotional right from the start, jarring the protagonist, the spirited Mireille, off a sunlit Haitian street and into a  cell. From there, we are thrown into Mireille's experience of profound violence, fear, and survival. I read the book with tears and chills; some parts I could hardly get through at all. And that, I'd say, is what good writing is: an exposure of primal truths that are so many other people's stories, too. Gay's writing took me straight into Mireille; the strongest writing comes when the narrator describes, at the mercy of her captors, the different ways she dies - first her body, then her faith, then her identify. In these places, the prose is exquisite.

Gay doesn't sugar-coat things. I was surprised in the first few chapters to find that her prose is spare, unadorned, lacking in fancy sentence structures but littered with fragments and the occasional comma splice. Gay doesn't hold back in the violence she describes, nor does she beautify the painful years that follow Mireille's capture. There is no happy ending to this book; the narrator's fairy-tale memories contrast, over and over again, with her unbelievable, near-death reality.

An Untamed State is sobering, vivid, and unforgettable. I look forward to reading much more by Roxane Gay.

No comments:

Post a Comment