Book buzz: ‘An Untamed State’

“An Untamed State” by Roxane Gay begins as any fairy tale would, with, “Once upon a time, in a far-off land…” And, the expanse between it, and any fairy tale with which you are familiar, is wider than anything you can imagine. Gay takes the Brothers Grimm to an entirely new level.

There are things you need to know before starting a book like this. There are things you need to know before reading it. A trigger warning might be necessary for some. An idea of what you’re getting into might be necessary for all. It’s the opposite of easy. And, it’s the definition of challenging. The writing is immediate, powerful, and aggressive. The subject matter: brutal. Mireille, an American-born daughter of a wealthy Haitian family, returns, with her Nebraska-raised husband and their infant son, to visit her family in Port-au-Prince. It doesn’t take long for readers to be held hostage to a harrowing kidnapping ordeal. On the first page, you know it will last 13 days. You know that the protagonist will survive. What you don’t know is if you’ll make it through the pages intact.

Roxane Gay has recently been added as an online opinion writer for The New York Times. She is the author of “Bad Feminist,” a collection of essays, as well as a multitude of short stories. She is (and, has been) busy with a whole lot of writing. This is to say that, should you choose to continue reading her novel, you will be in good hands. Just don’t expect to be treated with kid gloves.

As a reader, it took a bit of time for me to recover. There were times when I made myself read faster to get through plenty of scenes. I couldn’t bear to read them slowly; I couldn’t bear the details. I’m certain that pieces of “An Untamed State” will linger in my subconscious. As the facilitator of the library’s fiction book group, it’s clear that this is just the kind of book that will provoke discussion. It’s just the kind of book you won’t want to read alone. And, it’s just the kind of book you won’t soon forget.

Join us on Thursday, April 9, at 10:30 a.m. to talk about it. We meet in the Conference Room on the second floor.

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