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An Untamed State

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  13,902 Ratings  ·  2,441 Reviews
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 m ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Grove Press, Black Cat
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Kate I couldn't put it down, actually. I thought it was beautiful, complicated, and sad.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
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Sep 23, 2013 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Pretty decent debut novel. Protagonist loves to exhale.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
People will tell you this book is about a kidnapping -- about the life before for its heroine, Mireille, and about the life after. People will tell you this book about Haiti -- about another lightning rod that divides asunder: class. It is about these things. It's about many other things, also. Depending on who you are, you may need a trigger warning, a stiff drink, a shower when you're reading (and after).

I just needed silence. And then I needed to talk. A lot. Not about the book, but about a
Favorite Book of the Year

Today I noticed a weird bruise on my finger. After talking myself down from a leukemia diagnosis, I finally figured out it was a Kindle-related injury. I had gripped my Kindle so hard while reading An Untamed State that I bruised my finger. That’s how powerful this book is—it can cause bruises! Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase, “this book is gripping!”

To quote another reviewer, what a mother-fucking masterpiece! The book grabs you immediately, and with each chapter
May 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women
Disappointing read. Powerful subject matter reduced to Lifetime movie-worthy prose. Gay has a need to make every line a grand pronouncement, every scene worthy of a Tumblr "like." I found the book to be very emotionally manipulative (along the lines of a Nicholas Sparks novel). I hope no one confuses what I'm saying as a critique of emotions pursuant to kidnapping, or rape, or PTSD, or Miri's feelings about the horror she went through. I have no qualms with any of that. I am taking issue with th ...more
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A profound and heart-achingly beautiful novel about one woman's journey through hell and back..

I have to start off by saying that this book is not for everyone. There are graphic, sexual assault scenes that could be triggering for certain individuals.

This book takes place in Haiti and it details a woman’s experience in captivity. In the beginning of the book, Gay sets a dark overtone for the reader immediately. The protagonist, Miri is dragged out of her car by armed men directly in front of he
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Audiobook: narrated by Robin Miles.... [once again, I love Robin Miles: terrific narrator]

Mireille's father left the island of Haiti with nothing and returned with everything..... a wife, children, and wealth. It was easy for her father to overlook Haiti's painful truths- a country of poverty, corruption, heat...and even the gossip of how everyone was into everyone else's business. Mireille's mother remembered--she was resistant to return to Haiti.
However, Mireille's mother followed her husband
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

So begins this book. Mireille and her husband Michael along with her toddler son are visiting her family in Haiti. A group of men kidnap
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“Once upon a time, my life was a fairy tale and then I was stolen from everything I’ve ever loved. There was no happily ever after. After days of dying, I was dead.”

You ever find yourself wanting to read something that makes you look a little like this . . .

Houston commercial photography

If so, then An Untamed State might be the book for you.

While vacationing at her parents’ mansion in Haiti, Mireille and her husband decide to take their baby to the beach. Once
Debbie "DJ"
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political, favorites
An Untamed State is an extremely hard, brutal, and fierce read. It took me inside the horrible kidnappings going on inside Haiti daily. Searching Google, I found the estimate to be 160 a day. These kidnappings are done to force the wealthy to pay for their loved one's return. The extreme discrepancy between rich and poor in Haiti is astounding. While America is not a third world country, it forced me to think of growing disparities in my own country.

Roxane Gay tells the story of one families or
Jun 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
The reviews and cover blurbs led me to expect a serious literary tale of kidnapping and the class divisions between the wealthy and poor in Haiti. But what I got instead was a Lifetime movie of the week. (There's certainly nothing wrong with Lifetime movies if you know that's what to expect).

Chapters alternated between the present day kidnapping and flashbacks to the past, mostly telling the tale of when Mireille and her husband met and married. The scenes with the kidnappers were brutal and gr
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Haiti. "A country of contrast between beauty and brutality". Impoverished. Overpopulated. Oppressed. Unbearable heat. A country’s whose industry is abduction. This is where the story starts. For Mierelle, an American visiting her Haitian family, she becomes the currency being negotiated. Her father refuses to be comply with the $1M ransom. The cost: Thirteen days of sexual and psychological trauma. Thirteen days of dying. A lifetime to recover. In the before, life was a fairytale. In the after, ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. I was excited because I was already familiar with Roxane Gay's writing (fiction & nonfiction), had read Ayiti, and was already a fan.

I want to say honestly that this book rattled me. I cried through the last 1/3 and after finishing I was awake for several hours thinking about it. Few books do this for me. I took copious notes while I read. As a reader, I was fully engaged with this story all throughout. Fully there with Mireille and the other ch
Ron Charles
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Roxane Gay doesn’t make it easy to recommend her riveting first novel. Set in modern-day Haiti, “An Untamed State” is the story of an American lawyer who’s kidnapped while visiting her rich parents in Port-au-Prince. For more than 200 pages, she’s beaten, burned, sliced and gang-raped. Owing to the power of Gay’s prose, the immediacy of the narrator’s voice and the graphic nature of this ordeal, it’s some of the most emotionally exhausting material I’ve ever read.

I have serious reservations abou
Iris P
An Untamed State

 photo gallery_gay_zpsu1d2gx2q.jpg
Roxane Gay, is an American writer, professor, editor, blogger, and commentator

The U.S. official Government policy concerning the release of prisoners and demands for ransoms reads:

The U.S. Government will make no concessions to terrorists holding official or private U.S. citizens hostage. It will not pay ransom, release prisoners, change its policies, or agree to other acts that might encourage additional terrorism.

There's of course a significant difference in the way we thin
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carol by: Janet
Shelves: fiction
The Hook - ”Once upon a time in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.”

The Line”The people love a real tragedy when they think it cannot happen to them.

The Sinker – Many young girls look up to their fathers. Fathers are larger than life, not only in stature but often also in voice. Fathers can do no wrong and in my cas
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
A disclosure: as an editor I published a short story that grew into this novel, and since then the author has become a friend. So while I wouldn't review this for publication, I'll do so here with that caveat.

This was a difficult read, because it is brutal and its brutality is offered in a matter-of-fact way that while anything but superficial is very clear about the surface of things, the physical, painful reality of experience. As a reader I'm more often drawn to the absurd, to fiction a step
this is a brutal and unsparing portrayal of sexual violence. it's also a critique of economic disparity and an angry indictment of patriarchy (which may or may not go hand in hand with economic disparity).

a young haitian lawyer, black, married to a handsome nebraskan man (white), with an übercute little kid, is kidnapped during her visit to haiti to see her family. kidnapping apparently is the order of the day in haiti at the time (pre-earthquake) and wealthy people expect it and do all they ca
Paula Kalin
A truly harrowing story. I listened to the audiobook which was terrific.

Well worth the read.

4 out of 5 stars
Book Riot Community
Look, I know this is fiction, but if you told me that this was actually a memoir published as fiction, I would believe it. Every second of this book feels like reality. All the senses are triggered: You feel everything, hear everything, smell everything, taste everything. Miri once lived a perfect fairy tale life. And then she visited her family in Haiti and was kidnapped and held for ransom for thirteen days. Unspeakable horrors were done to her, while her wealthy father tries to negotiate the ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I am utterly baffled by these rave reviews. Were we reading the same book? Honestly this reads more like a Sidney Sheldon novel than the timely sociopolitical thriller I thought it would be. The relationship between Mireille and Michael was immature, one dimensional and unrealistic--much like the characters in this book. And as another reader pointed out was the issue of race and how it was portrayed in such a simplistic, clumsy, and dare say, slavish adoration of the white American male. It fel ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is really an appalling book. It appears to be a fictionalization of this kidnapping,

but Gay transforms the mafia kidnappers into leftist militants and brutal rapists. The resulting story is dominantly disavowed BDSM erotica, but it serves also as reactionary propaganda. The title should tip anyone off to the hackneyed neo-colonial comic that's coming: there's nothing even hipster-ironic here to mitigate the reasserted formula -- Haiti = Savage, and
Kevin Fanning
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just, holy jesus. Destroyed me. "Unflinching" is the first most obvious word that comes to mind when you're reading a writer who is so unafraid to write into truly horrifying things. The story is horrifying, unbelievable but so believable, yet told so skillfully that there's never a question of not turning the page, of not finding out what happens next. But as difficult as the story is, it was the tiny little moments of tenderness that broke me. The relationship between Mireille and Lorraine is ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-i-own
This is the very disturbing story of a woman (Mireille) kidnapped for ransom in Haiti. The story moves back and forth in time. Mireille tells the story of her kidnapping, her life "before" and her life "after". There are brutal scenes of rape and torture but it tells the story of Mireille and her husband Michael's love. I did not really "like" most of the characters in the book (including Mireille). I found myself getting very frustrated with Mireille in the "after" but that being said, I cannot ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-penrith
2.5 stars.

I was looking forward to reading this for quite some time. It wasn’t really ‘hype’ but I felt an expectation with this one. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. I wasn’t fazed with the violence, but I absolutely wasn’t a fan of either of our main players here, Mireille or Michael. I lagged about half way through, and mostly read to finish, not to enjoy.

Mireille is a Haitian woman, who’s happy living in Miami with her adoring husband Michael. She is kidnapped outside of her parents
Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies that it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

Damn. I read An Untamed State over a period of two weeks, taking in the torturous first half at a snail's pace, speeding through the second half in an emotion-filled haze. The book follows Mirelle Jameson, daughter of one of Haiti's richest sons, wife to Mich
Mocha Girl
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it
An Untamed State is a novel that spotlights victims of trauma and their road to recovery. The central character, Mirielle, is the American-born daughter of Haitian parents. Her parents, born from humble beginnings eventually move back to Haiti to continue their prosperous business ventures. While visiting her parents with her husband and infant son, Mireille is kidnapped, repeatedly gang-raped, physically and psychologically tortured for nearly two weeks because her father refuses to pay the ran ...more
Horrible things happen in this book but you know that because you've read the back flap.

What stays with me, though, is the treatment of race in this novel. I can't get over it. I feel like I read a book trying to convince me of the goodness of one white man and then the goodness of one true blue white American family, and then the goodness of a corn husking white community.

It is a brutal novel, of course it is, it's about a 13 day kidnapping and rape, but even in this brutality, in a story where
Julie Christine
Plot Spoilers Ahead: Read at Your Own Discretion

When I first read about An Untamed State, I decided it wouldn’t be the book for me. References to the scenes of graphic violence were enough to turn me away. But as Roxane Gay’s star continued to rise this past year and I read more of her columns, followed her on Twitter (there are few reasons for hanging out on Twitter, but Roxane is one of them), and became enamored of her voice and her personal politics in Bad Feminist, I turned back to An Unt
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carol by: Susan W.
This chilling story begins with a vicious and unexpected attack by heavily armed men resulting in the kidnapping of a young mother, the daughter of one of Haiti's richest men, and when her (SOB) father refuses to negotiate her ransom, she endures 13 long torturous days of starvation and barbarous sexual abuse by multiple men and a major up-hill battle to come to terms with her life afterward.

Not an easy read by any means due to the descriptive brutality and violence, but a suspenseful tale of co

Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am breathless...this may well be the best book I'll read it 2014. I know it is the best thus far. Anyone who reads my reviews knows that in order to rate 5 stars from me, I have to become one of the characters. Well I became Mireille. I am not Haitian, I am not black, I have never been kidnapped, never raped but Roxane Gay made me feel that I was all of these things. I blew through this book in less than 12 hours...the last time I remember that I did this was when I read The Kite Runner in 200 ...more
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Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The ...more
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“I am not easy to love but I am well loved. I try to love well in return.” 32 likes
“When he finished talking, I said, “Your mother did not deserve the unwanted attentions of a man like my father.” I said, “I did not deserve the unwanted attentions of a man like you. It is often women who pay the price for what men want.” 8 likes
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