Nominated by:

National Library Service of Barbados, Bridgetown

Halifax Public Libraries, Canada

Chicago Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Grove / Atlantic, USA

An Untamed State

Roxane Gay    

2016 Longlist

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 her father’s standoff with the kidnappers stretches out into days, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of wealth 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.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. Her first book, Ayiti, was a collection of poetry and short stories. She is the coeditor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. An Untamed State is Gay’s debut novel.

Librarians’ Comments

Gay’s harrowing and brave debut novel is told mainly from the point-of-view of Mireille, the American daughter of a wealthy Haitian, who’s kidnapped in front of her husband and baby while visiting her parents in Port-au-Prince. It’s a penetrating exploration of trauma and its aftermath, and an eye-opening portrait of Haiti, a land of huge wealth disparities and lawlessness.

The novel examines the staggering divide between privilege and poverty, what happens when that line is crossed and question can you ever be the same after trauma. A torrid look at a politically and economically divided Haiti, An Untamed State presents a mirror image of a woman and country searching for identity after unspeakable trauma.

An Untamed State is a harrowing story of a violent kidnapping and the aftermath for the victim and the family. It is an intimate portrayal of trauma with a unique voice, both blunt and poetic, and the book manages to be both devastating and hopeful.

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