Monday, April 07, 2014

2014 book 75

Roxane Gay's Untamed State
What do you say about a book when you recognize its literary merit, but wish you hadn't read it because it was amazingly upsetting? This book is going to haunt me for months and months. I honestly felt a little sick while reading it. And I still feel sick just thinking about it. Anyway, it's about a woman visiting her (wealthy) family in Haiti with her husband and baby, when she is kidnapped and held for ransom. Only her father doesn't want to pay, on principle. And they rape and torture and break her for thirteen days. And somehow she has to survive it.

I have read and enjoyed several of Gay's essays, but this novel turned me into a quivering heap of terror. Is that a good thing, from a writer's perspective? Certainly this novel is powerful. But also certainly, I felt like finishing it was kind of like punishing myself? (I hesitate to use the word "masochistic" because of its sexual connotations, because nothing in this book is remotely titillating.) Although I did really like the relationship between the woman and her mother-in-law.

I don't know how to grade this book. I'm giving it 4 stars on Goodreads, but don't really recommend it except for the most stout-hearted readers.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in May.

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