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 wilful 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. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.
Poet and short story writer Gay's first novel delivers a searing portrait of a politically and economically divided Haiti, as seen through the lens of one family's nightmare. Mireille Duval Jameson, a Haitian-born young woman, is on vacation from Miami and visiting her upper-class parents in Port-au-Prince when she is kidnapped at gunpoint. Her captors regularly extract hefty ransoms from their wealthy victims, but in this case, Mireille's too-proud father refuses to pay up until it's nearly too late, resulting in his daughter suffering 13 days of increasingly savage sexual torture. When Mireille regains her freedom, it's only the first step in the shaken family's uncertain recovery. Though the opening kidnapping feels like a scene from a particularly stilted thriller, Gay soon finds a more assured footing as she narrows in on the pain each character both endures and inflicts. Mireille's desperate attempts to wrestle control from her kidnappers by sacrificing her body are deeply felt, but it's the author's unflinching portrayal of Mireille's shattered physical and psychological state once she's rejoined her husband and infant son that is at once disturbing and frighteningly resonant.