AN UNTAMED STATE, BY ROXANE GAY
This was, I think, a misunderstanding on my part. When I decided to do this challenge, I asked everybody I know who likes to read for recommendations. This recommendation came from a lovely girl who has bangs, wears sundresses and loves light-hearted, funny, very well-written romances. I didn't read the blurb or anything about this book, other than what she told me about it, I only looked at the cover and, although it's darker than I would have expected from the type of book she usually reads, it has a girl with what could be called her hair in the wind, a palm leaf and warm colors. I would usually associate "untamed" with "freedom", so the title wasn't much help, either. All she told me about it was that "it's a bit sad, but has a happy ending" (now I have to wonder if she was being ironic or if she actually considers that ending to be happy). Also, she said it was set in Haiti, but, for some reason, in my head it turned into Tahiti (maybe because they're so similar in Portuguese). So, this was definitely not what I was expecting.
Also, once again I have committed the unforgivable sin of recommending a book to someone before I read it. I am very sorry, jordstarrr. Not because I didn't like this book, it is very well-written, but it's not the kind of book you recommend to someone unless you're very sure they would want to read it. So, I'll give you another recommendation. Check your inbox :)
Synopsis: Mireille has been kidnapped in broad daylight in her parent's country, Haiti. Having lived a life of privilege, she's hardly prepared for the next 13 days, while her father refuses to pay her ransom.
Overall enjoyment: For the reasons I pointed above, I had all my mental defenses down when I started reading it. It was not a happy experience. This book should come with all kinds of trigger warnings.
Plot: There isn't much of it, now that I think about it. The developments happen pretty much as you expect them. The first part of the book deals with Mireille's captivity, the second part is her struggle to come to terms with it; the focus is really not in what's happening, but how the characters deal with it.
Characters: Very well constructed, they carry the "lack" of plot very well.
World/setting: She paints a very vivid portrait of Haiti and the type of society it was. I have never been to Haiti, but I can surely understand the latent violence surrounding Mireille, all the strangers' apparent apathy in the face of her attack and the lack of trust in official organs.
Writing style: A bit more repetitive than I thought was necessary. Of course, after what happened, it was to be expected that Mireille would dwell constantly on what happened to her, even against her own will. Also, inserting her memories of happy times between the descriptions of what's happening to her in the present was a good narrative choice, but maybe a bit of overkill to make her suffering more real.
Representation: The book is set in Haiti, and many characters are black.
Political correctness: This is a very obviously politically aware book. She talks about the unsustainability of Haiti's social problems, with rich people living like magnates and poor people living in misery, and all the violence and aggression that causes. She also talks a lot about women, sexism, racism and many other issues. Michael's (Mireille's husband) behavior in the second part of the book is deplorable, but not at all unbelievable: some men are real idiots when it comes to women's sexual trauma (the very first time I got to stitch up an actual person was when one of my colleagues tried to hug a rape victim when she started crying and she almost bit a chunk of his arm off). It's a good thing that he straightened himself out later, but I still have a few reservations about their relationship. From what she tells in the first part of the book, it doesn't sound very much like a healthy, happy relationship at all.
And I have just remembered why I don't usually read this kind of book.
Up next: The Under Dog, by Agatha Christie