Books

Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat

An Untamed State

by Roxane Gay

“Clear your schedule now! Once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down. An Untamed State is a novel of hope intermingled with fear . . . written at a pace that will match your racing heart.” —Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date May 06, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2251-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Publication Date May 06, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9267-7
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

An Untamed State is breathless, artful, disturbing and original. I won’t ever forget it.” —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings

Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have earned her an enthusiastic audience. Flavorwire has already dubbed her one of 25 Women Poised to Lead the Culture, and An Untamed State one of their 15 Most Anticipated Books of 2014. In this debut novel, she delivers a powerful, unflinching story of a Haitian American woman kidnapped for ransom, the privilege that made her a target, and the strength she must draw on to survive. 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. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

Tags Literary

Praise

“[A] commanding début . . . Mireille’s struggle to maintain a sense of self while being denied her freedom produces the novel’s most powerful chapters.” —New Yorker

“Roxane Gay’s riveting debut, An Untamed State, captivates from its opening sentence and doesn’t let go. . . . Let this be the year of Roxane Gay: you’ll tear through An Untamed State, but ponder it for long after.” —Nolan Feeney, Time.com

“A fairy tale . . . its complex and fragile moral arrived at through great pain and high cost. . . . Perhaps Haiti, too, is a beautiful princess, well-versed in the vagaries of men, still searching for a happily ever after.” —Holly Bass, The New York Times Book Review

“Poignant . . . haunting . . . When Mireille is finally freed, her rocky adjustment harkens to that of the mother in Emma Donoghue’s Room. . . . Gay writes of her homeland beautifully, describing it in the conflicting, nuanced way that will ring familiar to Americans whose parents hail from troubled lands. . . . Gorgeous writing . . . A wonderful and affecting read.” —Rasha Madkour, Associated Press

“Gay may be working in territory many American readers know through the lyrical stories of Edwidge Danticat, but her style is wholly her own: direct, bracing and propulsive. . . . [A] smart, searing novel.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“To say that An Untamed State ‘tells the story’ of Mireille Duval Jameson—an American lawyer, wife, and new mother, who, while visiting her Haitian parents in Port Au Prince, falls victim to the wave of kidnappings plaguing that city—would be inadequate. Rather, Gay compels her readers to breathe and bleed [it]. . . . Brutally and vividly rendered.” —Abby Frucht, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Bold . . . A terrific read. . . . The character development of Gay’s protagonist, Mireille, is particularly well-crafted and nuanced; her portrayal of a woman who fights her strongest fight to resist being defeated by her captors is compelling and agonizingly felt by the reader. . . . This novel . . . will reward the reader.” —Jim Carmin, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“I applaud Gay’s courage: She writes candidly, vividly, and necessarily . . . You will find it difficult to resist her flawless pacing [and] sharp, clear prose.” —Ariel Gonzalez, The Miami Herald

“Set in Haiti, Roxane Gay’s first novel, An Untamed State, is a roundhouse kick to notions of privilege.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair (Hot Type)

“Wrenching . . . Vividly written.” —Jennifer Weiner, USA Today

“Clear your schedule now! Once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down. An Untamed State is a novel of hope intermingled with fear. . . . It is written at a pace that will match your racing heart.” —Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light

“A gripping psychological portrait of how trauma remakes the body to respond only to itself . . . Fans of Gay’s work as an editor at The Rumpus and a columnist for Salon (among other places) will see a lush, sensual side to her writing here, turned to describe brutal facts of subjugation and punishment, the agony of waiting to be rescued and the protection of the brain.” —Ellen Wernecke, The Onion AV Club

“Harrowing: truly, it harrows. With iron teeth it pulls up things that do not want to be pulled up. . . . Remarkable.” —NPR

“Excellent . . . Brilliant, eye opening, and necessary. . . . Gay’s prose is direct and muscular, unflinchingly confronting the reality she’s created. . . . To call it ‘hard to put down’ is an understatement; I lost sleep over it, and won’t forget it anytime soon.” —Alison Hallett, Portland Mercury

“[Roxane Gay] has written one of the most unsettling books of the year. And she’s just getting started. . . . Dark, gripping . . . It’s a compelling and at times painful read that addresses the issues of economic privilege, immigration, and sexual assault.” —Tomi Obaro, Chicago Magazine

“A gripping tale of a young mother ensnared in Haiti’s explosive class struggle.” —Natalie Beach, O Magazine (“15 Titles to Pick Up Now”)

An Untamed State is breathless, artful, disturbing and original. I won’t ever forget it.” —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings

“Poised to affect anyone who reads the book. . . . Gay weaves a story that is thrilling and readable and, surprisingly, incredibly enjoyable. It is, ultimately, about survival, but walking away from the story unaffected–both the reader and the characters within–is impossible.” —Jessi Cape, The Austin Chronicle

“There are times when reading a novel is painful. Not because the prose is lacking or the narrative lags, but because the subject matter verges on the unbearable. Roxane Gay’s debut novel, An Untamed State, falls under this last category. And yet, you must read it anyway. For beyond missing out on a story of such emotional power, you will miss out, as well, on this emerging writer’s abundant talent and insight, all on stunning display here. . . . An Untamed State is a rich, beautifully crafted novel, which should establish Roxane Gay as a writer who has something important to say and who knows how to say it.” —Susan Buttenwieser, The Brooklyn Rail

An Untamed State is the kind of book you have to keep putting down because you can’t believe how good it is. Awesome, powerful, impossible to ignore, Roxane Gay is a literary force of nature. An Untamed State arrives like a hurricane.” —Mat Johnson, author of Pym

“Roxane Gay is a rockstar talent who’s already left her mark on the literary world, and her dazzling debut novel is certain to cement her place. . . . [a] haunting tale.” —Morgan Ribera, Bustle (“May 2014’s Best Books”)

“Riveting.” —Anjali Enjeti, Paste Magazine (“The Best Novels of 2014 (So Far)”)

“[A] startling debut novel . . . There are no easy answers to be found in An Untamed State, and Gay, in elegant, fierce, poetic prose that evokes early-career Margaret Atwood, forces her characters to reach across all borders to find some final sense of reason. It’s a hard-won discovery, surely, but one absolutely worth the journey. This is a novel not easily forgotten.” —Tod Goldberg, Las Vegas Weekly (4/5 stars)

An Untamed State is a harrowing, suspenseful novel about the connections between sexual violence and political rage, narrated in a voice at once traumatized and eerily controlled. Roxane Gay is a remarkable writer, an astute observer of Haitian society and a deeply sympathetic, unflinching chronicler of the compromises people make in order to survive under the most extreme conditions.” —Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and Nine Inches

“[A] riveting debut novel . . . There is such a staggering sense of strength, confidence and integrity to Gay’s telling. . . . An Untamed State is a gem, blasted into beauty by the world’s harshest conditions. This gripping debut has set the table for many great works to come.” —Margaret Wappler, Bookforum

“[A] superbly written and excoriating first tale of terror and suspense . . . Gay is a daring and transfixing storyteller. . . . Ferocious, gripping, and unforgettable.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“From the astonishing first line to the final scene, An Untamed State is magical and dangerous. I could not put it down. Pay attention to Roxane Gay; she’s here to stay.” —Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and Leaving Atlanta

“Harrowing . . . It’s terrifying, this novel, but heartbreaking, because [Mireille’s] relationships are part of the dilemma. . . . I felt this powerfully.” —John Freeman, BOMB

“Gay brilliantly writes of the story’s external events while skillfully capturing Mireille’s internal anguish.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A simmering, sometimes brutal examination of love, privilege, the meaning of home, and the horrific damage that can come to women at the hands of men. . . . It would be a spoiler to say who does the most to help Mireille out of the horrors and back into life, but there is someone. And in that memorably lovely arc, An Untamed State—a novel partly about betrayal by one’s own family—becomes a novel about familial redemption, too.” —Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe

“A harrowing and emotionally clear-eyed vision of one woman’s ordeal during and after her kidnapping in Haiti. . . remarkable . . . A cutting and resonant debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A searing portrait of a politically and economically divided Haiti . . . Deeply felt . . . Disturbing and frighteningly resonant.” —Publishers Weekly

“Incredible and unflinching.” —Jessica Valenti, The Guardian U.S.

Awards

Longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Excerpt

As the gates closed behind us, three black Land Cruisers surrounded our car. Michael’s knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel and looked frantically for a way out. The doors of all three trucks opened and men we did not know spilled out, all limbs and gunmetal.

Two men slammed the butts of their rifles against the car windows. Shards of glass shattered around us, refracting sharp prisms of light. Michael and I reached for Christophe. The baby was still smiling but his lips quivered, his eyes wide. My hands could not quite reach him. My child was so close my fingers thrummed. If I touched my child, we would all be fine; this terrible thing would not happen. A man reached into the window and unlocked my door. I was lifted up and out of our car and thrown onto the street.

My body deflated. My body was just skin stretched too tightly over bone, nothing more, no air.

The man sneered, called me diaspora with the resentment those Haitians who cannot leave hold for those of us who can. One of the men grabbed me by my hair, threw me to the ground, kicked me in my stomach. A small crowd gathered. I begged them to help. They did not. They stood and watched me screaming and fighting with all the muscle in my heart. I saw the indifference in their eyes, the relief that it was not yet their time; the wolves had not yet come for them.