An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

January 23, 2015 Books 11 ★★★★★

An Untamed State by Roxanne GayAn Untamed State
by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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 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.

T.S Eliot described Nightwood’s (by Djuna Barnes) prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.¹

This is how I feel about a book I just finished; An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. It demanded something of me. However, unlike that “ordinary novel-reader,” I was prepared to give it. I went into the book knowing I would have to give something. And, by God, did I give.

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.
They held me captive for thirteen days.
They wanted to break me.
It was not personal.
I was not broken.
This is what I tell myself.

 An Untamed State is the story of Mireille Duval Jameson. She is a Haitian woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an immigration lawyer, and all around strong, confident woman. One day, while on vacation with her husband and young son, she is kidnapped by armed Haitian men and held ransom for one million dollars. The things that happen to her while waiting for that ransom are horrific. For thirteen days, she endures torment no one, man or woman, should have to face. It was personal. She was broken. No matter what she tells herself.

Roxanne Gay. What a writer. Seriously. She knows how to craft a sentence. She knows how to pack a punch. Reading her writing is glorious, despite the subject matter.

Like I said, I knew this would be a hard book to read. I had read reviews. I knew what was coming. However, when the book was on sale this holiday season, and Andi said she’d read it with me, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would hurt, but I also knew I would come out better on the other side.

This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Why do I (or anyone else for that matter) want to read books with difficult subject matter? I remember when I was a kid…. I was always a voracious reader. I read all the time. Time out in my room never bothered me; that’s where the books where! And I had a role model for this behavior. My grandmother. She read all  the time. After she retired, she could sit and read two books a day. And you know why? She read easy books. She subscribed to Harlequin. It was nothing for me to go get the mail and find a box (or two, or three) of 6 books in there waiting. When I was in high school, and reading all the books, I asked her. “Did you ever read these kind of books? The classics and stuff?” And she said yes. “But now I’m too old to put thought into my reading,” she added. She didn’t want to think.

I want to think.

I want to be challenged. I want to expand my world view. I want my brain to be hardwired differently by what I read. (Seriously, read that article. It’s fascinating.) I want to empathize. I want to understand. I want to learn.

An Untamed State was a great teacher. I can’t wait to find my next one. As Gustave Flaubert said, “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.” (sorry, couldn’t resist a favorite quote…) (I feel kind of pretentious.) (Oh well.)

Favorite bits:

The sun was still out but fading into pink along the horizon. It was beautiful how the color stretched across the sky in sweeping arcs. I stared into that pink, wanted to remember everything about it, until a hand grabbed my elbow.

My parents are not warm people. They love hard and deep but you have to work to understand the exact nature of that love, to see it, to feel it. That day was the first time I realized my parents loved each other more than they loved us though I couldn’t know then the price I would pay for that love.

Sons are different, my mother says. They always look for home somewhere else. Daughters, though, a mother can count on. Daughters always come home.

What is truly terrifying is the exact knowledge of what will come and being unable to save yourself from it.

This is what I know-the body is built to survive.

My mother has often told me there are some things you cannot tell a man who loves you, things he cannot handle knowing. She adheres to the philosophy that it is secrets rather than openness that strengthen a relation ship between a woman and a man. She believes this even though she is an honest person. Honesty, she says, is not always about the truth.



Listen Up! The Memory Palace

January 21, 2015 Listen Up 6

listenupSince I’m able to listen to more things at work now, I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff. Podcasts, music, audiobooks…and I want to share! So, every couple of weeks or so, I’ll share something that I’m really excited about.

This week, it’s a little podcast called The Memory Palace. And by little, I mean, the episodes can be anywhere from 2 minutes to 15. It is hosted by Nate DeMao and oh my goodness, you guys, his voice is like silk.Or butter. I’m going to go with butter; it’s sinful. And he really knows how to tell a story. Perfect pitch, perfect timing. And the stories he writes…they are things of beauty.

You see, he choses subjects obscure and fascinating. And I learn things. For instance, I now know:

  • Why Samuel Morse invented Morse code. Not how. Why. It’s tragic.
  • Just what John Glenn saw floating outside (he described them as “fireflies”) the window on his historic first orbital trip around Earth. (Hint: it wasn’t fireflies.)
  • About Harriet Quimby, the first woman to become a licensed pilot.
  • About the Cardiff Giant and PT Barnham.

And that’s for a start. There are 67 episodes, spanning back years, of interesting tidbits. Enough to wet your whistle and push you to find out more, or not, as the case may be. And they’re short. You can fit them in on your commute, a bathroom break, lunch, as you walk to get lunch…really, anywhere. Simple, interesting stories, for your enjoyment. Give it a try. Trust me. Or binge listen like I did, and listen to most of them in one day. Then sit back and wait for the next one.

Subscribe on iTunes. Follow on Facebook or Twitter.  And yo, I’m just talking this up because I love it. I’m not being paid or anything.



Top Ten Tuesday – Friends. Geeks. Nerdom.

January 20, 2015 Meme 18

Series: comics, graphic novels, must read

Lend me your eyeballs!

These are the comic book authors I think you should be paying attention too. (I figure doing authors will give me the opportunity to put more books in my list. Sneaky.) This is me, being bossy. Or pushy. I get pushy when it comes to my favorite comics.


1. Brian K. Vaughan – After 2014, I’m convinced the man can do no wrong. Y the Last Man, Saga, Pride of Baghdad… SO GOOD. I still want to read Ex Machina and The Runaways, to name a couple more from his vast oeuvre.


2. Jeff Smith – BONE. (my review) I am completely and totally in love with Bone. I’ve read the series through twice now and the second read only made me love it MORE. It’s pretty much everything I love about comics.


3. Lucy Knisley – It all started with French Milk….. {sigh}. Loved her more after Relish, and then even MORE after Age of License. I will read anything she writes. Or draws.


4. Bill Willingham – FABLES!!! Fables is like a gateway drug. Before you know it, you’re hooked and you have to have all the comics and all the spin-offs and even the standalone novel. They are just THAT. GOOD.


5. Raina Telgemeier – Smile, Drama, Sisters….all fantastic glimpses into the lives of young peoples. Plus, she did the graphic novel editions of The Babysitter’s Club. She’s kinda awesome. Plus, my daughter LOVES her work.


6. Art Speigelman – We always remember our first fondly, right? Maus taught me right off the bat, what the comic genre could do. I still haven’t read In the Shadow of Two Towers, but it’s on my to-do-list.


7. Noelle Stevenson – I discovered this Susan B. Anthony fantastic comic book author last year, thanks to Andi. I’ve devoured all the issues out so far, and am waiting with baited breath for the next. This fun group of girls stuck in the craziest summer camp you have EVER seen is nothing but pure fun. Now to go back and read her earlier comics, like Nimona.


8. Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis was my second, and just as memorable. This Iranian-born artist introduces the reader to her experiences growing up during the Islamic Revolution and teaches (most effectively, I think) about the customs of a Muslim culture and the struggle of growing up in such an extreme society while being raised by religious, but more modern thinking, parents.


9. Shaun Tan – Tan had me at Tales from Outer Suburia. Tan has a singular way of looking at the world and his work is a thing of beauty. An ideal place to start if you’ve never read a graphic novel.


10. Gene Luen Yang – Like Speigelman and Satrapi, Yang has great skill in helping the reader truly feel what it was like to live in a specific culture or time period. Boxes and Saints especially, are not to be missed.

What about you? What graphic novels/comic authors should we all be reading?


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. More HERE.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

January 19, 2015 Books, Meme 12


Hello! And Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Are you surprised to see The Martian up there? I am too! Last week, I mentioned The Martian as one of those books I regretted not reading last year. After all the comments calling me out on my gross oversight,  I got the idea to see how much the audiobook would cost on Audible. Sometimes a book that doesn’t work for me in print, works for me in audio. Luckily, since I had bought the ebook from Amazon, the audiobook was super cheap and I snapped it up. I had just finished listening to The Sparrow so I thought, why not? No other audiobooks had stuck yet, so I started.

And OMG YOU GUYS. I can’t put it down. If I didn’t have an double ear infection (I know, the luck, right?), I’d be listening right now. As I emailed Andi later, I think First Person POVs work better for me in audio. I will continue to test this theory.

I was a reading madwoman this weekend (see above parenthetical) and finished two books. I speed-read First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, practically reading it in one day and then I finished up N.K. Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I was ready for a change of pace, so I grabbed a few books to test out. Twain’s Feast was the first that I tried and it stuck. It’s going to be a hungry read, for sure!

What are your plans for the reading week? Read anything good?

It's Monday What Are  You Reading

It’s Monday, What are you Reading is hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.




Top Ten Tuesday – Oh Snap. I Meant to Read That.

January 13, 2015 Meme 12

or, Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To


There you have it. I tried to read several; The Martian, Station Eleven, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy…. I have those, plus Bad Feminist on my TBR. Maybe I’ll get to them this year? Yeah, I’m not too sure either.

Which 2014 books did you mean to read?


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. More HERE.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

January 12, 2015 Books, Meme 12


Oh my gosh, you guys! Remember all that reading mojo I had going on this week? I had almost NONE this week. Mostly because life is just so freaking BUSY. Although, this is a catch-22. I am too busy to read, but by golly, I’m so busy I’m getting lots of audiobook time in. I listened to almost 80% of The Sparrow last week. I cannot honestly say I’m in love with this book (yet, I hold onto hope) but at this point, hell yeah, I’m gonna finish it.

I started The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms last week. I’ve been wanting to read this book FOREVER because several readers I trust recommend it. I haven’t picked it up in probably 5 days. This is partly Andi’s fault. She was ready to start An Untamed State and I said SURE! I can fit that in! {insert eye roll} {I have way too much confidence}

All my free reading time has gone into An Untamed State. Because this book is going to kill my heart and OMG I can’t put it down. The writing. The WRITING. OMG it’s gorgeous. I read the opening paragraph at LEAST three times in a row. It’s like poetry. Witness:

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

I mean, just, oh my gosh. I love that paragraph. It hurts my heart and turns my stomach, brings tears to my eyes and makes me read more. In fact, I’m going to go do that now.

What are your plans for the reading week? Read anything good next week?

It's Monday What Are  You Reading

It’s Monday, What are you Reading is hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.




The Best of 2014 – The Nonfiction

January 9, 2015 Books 12

Another day, another list! Honestly, I am so proud of my nonfiction reading last year. Every year I say I want to read more of it and last year I finally did. Nonfiction November helped, but I consistently did it all year. I feel it really enriched my reading for the year. Here are ten of my favorites.



  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (my review)

Life changing. Defining.

  • Lives in Ruins: Archeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson

Informative and fun.

  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Lauren Hillenbrand

I learned so much about the Japanese side of World War II. I feel like I knew nothing about it until I read this book. Heartbreaking and inspiring.

  • The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson

It feels weird to say a book about obituaries was fun, but good golly, it was.

  • Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

I love Mary Roach. She makes the most gross subjects not only informative, but also fun.

  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

I’m beginning to suspect a fascination with death? Probably not, but still, it’s all very interesting.

  • Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

Interesting look at what it takes to open a restaurant, and the effects that can have on a marriage.

  • Call The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth (my review)

This look at a midwife’s life in London’s East End during the 1950s is nothing short of fascinating.

  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (my review)

Y’all, my body hurts just thinking about this book. What a wild ride. Exciting and a little scary.

  • Will Storr vs. The Supernatural: One Man’s Search for the Truth About Ghosts by Will Storr

This was just plain fun and a great read for the fall months.



Best of 2014 – The Fiction

January 7, 2015 Books 16

I am such a cheater. But hey, I read 132 books last year. And it IS my blog. So, here are my top 10 favorite FICTION books from last year.


Yep. This was my favorite. It has stayed with me all year and, believe it or not, I have it queued up to listen to very soon. I waited until 2015 to reread it. It was hard to wait.

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I never got around to reviewing this one, dang it. There is SO MUCH I LOVE about this book! I have followed Maggie Stiefvater since she published her first book (I got it for Christmas that year!) and she just gets better and better. This story of wild (killer) horses, and races, and poverty, and sexism, and more, so much more, spoke to me on so many levels. It is, in my mind, her best novel to date. And yes, I’m putting it above The Raven Cycle books. Which is hard, but there you are.

  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (my review)

Oh Ms. Jones! What TOOK ME SO LONG? And why haven’t I read another? {sigh}

  • Chains (Seeds of America #1) by Laurie Halse Anderson

Somehow I never review this and I am actually pretty upset about that. Isabel, a young slave who will do anything to obtain freedom for herself and her sister Ruth is pretty compelling. I have to get my hands on the sequel this year.

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time India by Sherman Alexie

This book. OMG you guys, THIS BOOK. I read it during the April readathon, which turned out to be the perfect time to do it. I did not want to put it down! Junior’s typical awkward journal to adulthood is complicated by his desire to break free of his reservation life and take his future into his own hands. This book is so beautifully written and so true. Just so true. Not to be missed. I will be rereading this.

  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I tried, I can’t tell you how many times I tried, to review this book, but in the end, it hit too close to home. I was abandoned by my mother and left with my sick (not mentally, physically, but still) father who died when I was still young and raised by my grandparents. CeeCee’s story was so close to my own, I couldn’t see how to write about it, which I regret because the book is absolutely breathtaking. Oh, the tears. Lifelong favorite right here. And good Lord I have got to get myself to Savannah!

  • Ruby by Cynthia Bond

This book broke me. The hardest books to read can leave the largest impression. This one left a huge one.

  • The Green Mile by Stephen King

I have long loved the movie, but had never read the book, mainly because I figured the book would be sadder. Boy, I was right. John Coffey is one of my most favorite characters. Ever.

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Epic. What. an. epic. This is another one of those books that can leave an impression. This one is everlasting. And Cathy? OMG What a piece of work. Most evil character ever? I’m leaning toward yes.

  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

I really like Sepetys. I mean REALLY. Her writing is gorgeous. She makes even minor characters feel important. Her sense of time is well established and her sense of place make you almost feel like you’re there. She’s on my One to Watch list for sure.



Top Ten Tuesday – Hey, I Wanna Read That Now!

January 6, 2015 Meme 13

or, Top Ten Most Anticipated Novels For 2015. Because, unfortunately, I didn’t have time to look up 10 debut novels. Of course, some of these may BE debuts, but again, I’m too  lazy to check. It’s so hard being this lazy.


Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman – Hello, it’s Neil Gaiman!!

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion.

The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac: A Novel by Sharma Shields – Shannon mentioned this just yesterday and I’m desperate to get my hands on it. GAH! I NEED IT NOW.

Eli Roebuck was nine years old when his mother walked off into the woods with “Mr. Krantz,” a large, strange, hairy man who may or may not be a sasquatch. What Eli knows for certain is that his mother went willingly, leaving her only son behind. For the rest of his life, Eli is obsessed with the hunt for the bizarre creature his mother chose over him, and we watch it affect every relationship he has in his long life–with his father, with both of his wives, his children, grandchildren, and colleagues. We follow all of the Roebuck family members, witnessing through each of them the painful, isolating effects of Eli’s maniacal hunt, and find that each Roebuck is battling a monster of his or her own, sometimes literally. The magical world Shields has created is one of unicorns and lake monsters, ghosts and reincarnations, tricksters and hexes. At times charming, as when young Eli meets the eccentric, extraordinary Mr. Krantz, and downright horrifying at others, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac is boldly imaginative throughout, and proves to be a devastatingly real portrait of the demons that we as human beings all face.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg – It just SOUNDS GOOD.

Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients—including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link – One of my most favorite short stories ever is by Kelly Link. So I look forward to everything she does. Plus, endorsed by Chabon, Gaiman, and Russell? Yes please!

She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction”; by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure”; and by Karen Russell as “Franz Kafka with a better understanding of ladies’ footwear and bad first dates.”

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter


The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman – No cover! {gasp} And this brief description is all I needed.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro—the Father of Impressionism.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – It’s new Holly Black! It’s a given!

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

The Season of Migration by Nellie Hermann – It’s about van Gogh! {squeal} He’s my favorite.

Though Vincent van Gogh is one of the most popular painters of all time, we know very little about a ten-month period in the painter’s youth when he and his brother, Theo, broke off all contact. In The Season of Migration, Nellie Hermann conjures this period in a profoundly imaginative, original, and heartbreaking vision of Van Gogh’s early years, before he became the artist we know today.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson – I love Larson. And, well this just sounds like a recipe for disaster:

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But theLusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship–the fastest then in service–could outrun any threat.

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman – Every time I see it, I’m intrigued, even though I’m sure this plot has been done before. But with a title like that….

In the aftermath of a devastating plague, a fearless young heroine embarks on a dangerous and surprising journey to save her world in this brilliantly inventive dystopian thriller, told in bold and fierce language, from a remarkable literary talent.

My name be Ice Cream Fifteen Star and this be the tale of how I bring the cure to all the Nighted States . . .

How about you? What 2015 debuts (or just plain new books) are you anxious to read?


Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. More HERE.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

January 5, 2015 Books, Meme 14

PicMonkey Collage

Happy Monday!!!

How is your year going so far? Mine’s going great! I’m finally on the mend and I’m STILL reading! In fact, I’ve already finished two books! On January 1st, I devoured The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. It was a great way to begin the year.  The next book, Caveat Emptor by Ken Perenyi, was an impulse buy during Amazon’s holiday sales. I’m glad I got it on sale. It was hilarious, to me, probably in a way unintended.

Now, I’m reading devouring The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. I actually staying up late last night to read more of it. I would have stayed up longer, but dang it, I had to work today. {sigh} I’m listening to The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I decided it was time to push on through whatever is blocking me on this book. I know I’ll love it, so I’m giving it one more try. Don’t worry, if I have to I’ll drop it. But so far so good!

Up next is An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay. I’m reading it with my Andi!

What are your plans for the reading week? Read anything good next week?

It's Monday What Are  You Reading

It’s Monday, What are you Reading is hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.