Media and Digital Librarian Aly Wepplo recommends An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.
I was working at the Circulation desk when Martha Williams, our Director of Programs and Education, dropped An Untamed State into the return bin.
Once she picked it up, she said, she hardly put it down again until it was finished. Three days later, I was making the same recommendation. To everybody.
An Untamed State is the story of Mireille, an American woman with Haitian roots. Her parents raised her in Nebraska and then returned to their home city of Port-au-Prince. Mireille thinks of both countries as home, and she visits her parents often.
On one such visit, Mireille and her husband plan to take their baby son to the beach for the first time. On the way, they are stopped by a gang of kidnappers, who pull Mireille from the car and take her to their hideout. They demand a ransom of one million dollars from Mireille’s father, who owns a successful construction company. He refuses to pay or negotiate.
And Mireille is left with her captors for a harrowing thirteen days.
This incredible novel kept me up till 3:30 on a Saturday night. The story jumps between past and present. It follows Mireille’s relationship with her husband, Michael, from their first accidental meeting through their engagement, wedding, and the difficult pregnancy that brings their son, Cristophe.
This is more than the story of one woman’s kidnapping. It is the story of her captors, who hope to buy their way out of a desperate existence. It is the story of her parents, who fight their country’s problems while also contributing to them. It is the story of Mireille’s husband, an outsider who wants so badly to help and doesn’t know how. It is the story of Haiti and the struggles and triumphs of its people.
And it is the story of the universal gender, race, and class issues that tie all people together.
I loved this book. I hope everyone will read it.