Tag: literary fiction


#CloudAtlasAlong: Week One

Posted 2 April, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing, Reading

cloudatlasalong

Cloud Atlas by: David Mitchell

Parts One and Two

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun. Don’t forget to stop by other links in the link-up and definitely visit my lovely co-host Katie at Bookish Tendencies.

If you want to read along later pick yourself up a copy and get thee to your favorite reading nook! 

Note Two: These post may or may not have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. 

Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review will be published on the blog sometime in May. Read along continues every Wednesday in April.

*sigh* Confession. The first two chapters in this novel were a little bit of a trip to Yawnsville for me. I had to read the first sixteen pages three times before I managed to make it stick. I was rather taken by Dr. Goose’s crazy plan to ruin the society lady with the dentures from cannibal teeth, but other than that the journal in chapter one just didn’t grab me at all.

Chapter two picked up for me a little. Who is this guy? Who is Sixtus? I thought it was totally ballsy to hunt down a great composer who was ailing and be all “Dude. I can help you, gimme a job.” and then start banging his wife. But really, what intrigued me was who is Sixtus? And what an interesting name? I’ve over-read into chapter three, but I think that I’m officially hooked now. Keep the faith reader, it picks up.

RuPaul Can't Wait to See How This Turns Out

What about you fellow CloudAtlasAlongers? Any strong feelings yet? Talk to me! Don’t forget to add the link to your post! 

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Mental Health Monday: Hausfrau

Posted 23 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mental Health Monday: HausfrauHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.   But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

Dear God. Hausfrau is one of those books that hits you where it hurts. Love (or something close to love), marriage, infidelity, family, mental illness…

This book was an all around winner for me. It’s not just deep and important with plenty of things for bookclubs everywhere to argue about, it’s also beautifully written. I have a background in German so the parallels that Essbaum made between the German language and Anna’s life decisions were endlessly fascinating and relatable to me.

Despite her affairs and questionable moral behavior I liked Anna and understood her compulsions and actions (or lack thereof). Depression is not something that can be ‘fixed’ with something as easy as finding a new hobby or making new friends, and perhaps I excuse her affairs because of her long term depression.

This book is gorgeously written and tackles a number of complex and heavy topics. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Other viewpoints from:

Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf

Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Shannon at River City Reading

Melinda at The Book Musings

What about you, Reader? Can you handle a book where you find some of the protagonist’s actions morally reprehensible? Do we judge men as harshly as women when it comes to marital infidelity? And don’t forget to drop into The Socratic Salon on Wednesday where we’ll really break it down.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Tournament of Books Thursday: Teeny Tiny Review-lettes

Posted 5 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

 

I promised you reviews of these two books this week – but holy cow. This is the second week of my full time employment and trying to ‘have it all’ is freaking exhausting. But no matter! The book blogosphere is full of amazing people who write amazing things. So without further ado, I’m going to present my (very) brief review-lettes as well as some amazing reviews of these books from others in the community.

Everything I Never Told You by: Celeste Ng
Super-short synopsis: A mixed race family in 1970’s Ohio must face the unexplained death of their daughter/sister who had the seemingly perfect life…
Personal thoughts: I liked this book well enough – but it lacked the wow factor that I felt like many reviewers gave it. The mystery behind Lydia’s death along with the family dynamics make this an extremely readable and compelling book.
As far as The Tournament goes: Check the brackets.
Other full and fabulous reviews:
Shannon at River City Reading
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Allison at The Book Wheel
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide
New Century Reading

The Bone Clocks by: David Mitchell
Super-short synopsis: Cradle to grave story of Holly Sykes. Explores many characters relating to Holly’s life as well as supernatural occurrences.
Personal thoughts: I’m a sucker for good character heavy stories as well as cradle to grave stories. The extra supernatural element was a little extraneous for me — but still fit in most excellently.
As far as The Tournament goes: Check the brackets. Also I think that The Bone Clocks has the ability to win it all!!!
Other full and fabulous reviews:
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide
Katie at Bookish Tendencies
New Century Reading
Amber at Shelf Notes
Wendy at Wensend

Have you read either of these reader? Have you read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell? What do you think? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 25 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (A Tournament of Books Selection)A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
Published by Harper Collins on July 8th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-stars

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is an exuberant literary debut--a novel of real ideas and a playful examination of our in-between world, one that explores the nature of family, identity, art, and belief while also marking the introduction of an original new voice in contemporary fiction.Owen Burr is the six-foot-eight, Olympics-bound senior captain of the Stanford University water polo team. In his final collegiate match, however, he suffers a catastrophic injury that destroys his hopes and dreams, flattening his entire world into two dimensions. His identity as an athlete erased but his ambition indelible, he defies his father, a classics professor who lives in a "cave" of his own making, and moves to Berlin with naive plans to make conceptual art. Then he disappears.Without a single clue as to his son's location, Dr. Burr embarks upon a tour of public lectures from Greece to Germany to Iceland in an attempt to draw out his endangered son. Instead, he foments a violent uprising.

This book was a sleeper for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did – but the truth is I found it extremely enjoyable. Honestly, between you and me, I saw ‘athlete’ in the description and stopped reading the description. I’m such an anti-sports snob. I know. Get over myself.

The writing was excellent, the characters were strong and well developed. I found Owen’s living in Berlin without a penny to his name to be a little unbelievable, but this didn’t trouble me enough to ruin the enjoyment of the book. Owen was also a bit of a little shit, but I think he grew throughout the novel. 

As far as Prof. Burr (Owen’s dad) went – his story was quite the wild ride as well, despite the two narratives being vastly different worked well to compliment each other Prof. Burr’s disastrous speech in Athens (all undertaken to help him look for Owen) and Owen’s disastrous ‘debut’ into the art world parallel nicely.   

This book is a commentary on the intersection of art and life, which made it very compelling to me. I also loved the commentary on modern art and what drives the prices of it. I’ve always been a big fan of modern art museums, if for nothing else than finding the absurdity in them. Tate Modern in London is by far my favorite – probably because during one visit there I found a display of a hermetically sealed can in which the artist had preserved his feces. (If anyone knows the artist or the name of the piece, hit me up because I’ve long since forgotten it.) But, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t share my love for The Centre Pompidou in Paris too. 

Owen and Prof. Burr’s journey into Iceland was a bit surreal as well – but again – I felt like it fit with the book and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and descriptions of Iceland. It actually inspired me to finally read Burial Rites. Absolutely a fabulous debut.

Art! What a glorious thing. What about you, Reader? Do you have a penchant for modern art? Or any other visual art styles?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Our Endless Numbered Days

Posted 23 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Published by Penguin Books Limited on February 26th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I can’t say that Our Endless Numbered Days is a book that I would have necessarily picked up on my own, but Allison from The Book Wheel more or less pushed it into my hands and insisted it was going to be the next big thing.

I think she’s right. 

Peggy’s dad is a survivalist in England before survivalism was cool. The narration takes the reader back and forth between the nine years that Peggy spent in the woods with her father beginning in about 1976 to her attempt to re-acclimate with general society in 1985. The narrative style is done flawlessly and makes an excellent point/counterpoint between Peggy’s life in isolation and what it means to try and come back to a society that you hardly remember. 

Our Endless Numbered Days does everything and it does it very well. There’s action, the characters are complex and flawed, they grow and change as the story progresses, there are themes on family and marriage, and the tension that runs between family and career – not just in 1976, but today as well. 

This is a fantastic and clever book that will appeal to many readers because of the breadth of the themes that Fuller explores within the pages. 

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about survivalists? Could you live in the woods with only one companion and few supplies for nine years? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 21 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on January 28th 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 224
Goodreads
three-stars

Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is an astonishing novel of unjust conviction, lost love, and a journalist’s obsession. Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as the “Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled—until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.

I think I might be an outlier on my feelings about this book. While I appreciate the structure and style of this novel I have a thing about gimmicks. The gimmick here is that journalist “Jesse Ball” is obsessed with the “true story” of Oda Sotatsu. So I’m irritated right off the bat – what’s true? What’s imagined? Is this historical fiction or straight up fiction? 

That being said, the writing is quite lovely in this novel and the structure is unique. Told (mostly) in a series of interviews with people connected with Sotatsu, it felt a little like Solomon the Peacemaker (which you almost definitely have not read, but totally should). Outside the gimmick the story itself is compelling enough until you get to the end. Here I’m going to put a big fat…




Kind of Spoiler Alert
 
I’m sorry kids, but the ending was flat out lifted from that awful Kevin Spacey movie The Life of David Gale, or maybe David Gale‘s ending was lifted from the maybe real-life occurrences outlined in Ball’s novel – either way – all I could think of was that movie. Unfortunately the motivation and execution of the characters in the movie were a lot more plausible than that of those in Ball’s novel. 
 
Done Possibly Ruining Your Reading Experience
 
 
 
 
 
As far as the Tournament goes, this is pitted against Redeployment in the first round – which is interesting because Redeployment reads as stories that should be true (and probably are in spirit) while Silence Once Begun is claimed to be a true story (maybe it somewhat is, I haven’t researched it) as sort of a gimmick, but otherwise fails to really reflect reality. What’s interesting about the two novels is that they are both protest literature of sorts. Obviously I’m rooting for Redeployment and I feel like it will probably win the first round over this – but you never know what those crazy judges are going to do. 
 
Have you read this one, Reader? Do you know what I mean by ‘protest literature’? Do you have any examples? 
 
 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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What Was That? Wednesday: All the Birds, Singing (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 18 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

What Was That? Wednesday: All the Birds, Singing (A Tournament of Books Selection)All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on April 15th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Family Life, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 240
Goodreads
five-stars

Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rain and battering wind. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wants it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sounds a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, and rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is also Jake’s past, hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.

This was one of the most enjoyable novels that I read for Tournament of Books. The prose is gorgeous and I found the structure to be really unique. Though it only has one narrator (technically) the chapters alternate between telling the story of Jake’s present and telling the story of Jake’s past – backwards. It’s a delightful and surprising structure that made the novel really enjoyable for me. 

This is another one of those books (kind of like Annihilation) that defies hard categorization. Though it is a suspenseful novel I have a hard time calling it a suspense novel. If that makes any sense at all. As I said above – the structure of this book is what makes it so unique – it really gives the reader a sense of push and pull, dread and understanding, of what Jake is going through. 

The ending is a point of contention for many readers (I’m going to just leave it there), but no matter how you feel about it, All the Birds, Singing is one of those novels that sticks with you for a long time after you’ve read it. 

Unique and thoroughly enjoyable, I think that readers of literary fiction (and yes, suspense novels) are likely to really appreciate this book. This would also make an EXCELLENT book club pick because it’s relatively short and there are lots of things to talk about.

As far as the Tournament goes, (brackets came out today!) I have a hard time predicting how it will do up against A Brief History of Seven Killings, I’m only about a quarter of the way through that one and while it feels deep and important – it’s not very readable.

Excellent reviews also from:
Michael at Literary Exploration
Shannon at River City Reading
Katie at Bookish Tendencies

What was the last book that you read that really stuck with you, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Tournament of Books Tuesday: Wittgenstein Jr. (A ToB Selection)

Posted 17 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Tournament of Books Tuesday: Wittgenstein Jr. (A ToB Selection)Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer
Published by Melville House on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 146
Goodreads
three-stars

The unruly undergraduates at Cambridge have a nickname for their new lecturer: Wittgenstein Jr. He’s a melancholic, tormented genius who seems determined to make them grasp the very essence of philosophical thought.But Peters—a working-class student surprised to find himself among the elite—soon discovers that there’s no place for logic in a Cambridge overrun by posh boys and picnicking tourists, as England’s greatest university is collapsing under market pressures.Such a place calls for a derangement of the senses, best achieved by lethal homemade cocktails consumed on Cambridge rooftops, where Peters joins his fellows as they attempt to forget about the void awaiting them after graduation, challenge one another to think so hard they die, and dream about impressing Wittgenstein Jr with one single, noble thought.And as they scramble to discover what, indeed, they have to gain from the experience, they realize that their teacher is struggling to survive. For Peters, it leads to a surprising turn—and for all of them, a challenge to see how the life of the mind can play out in harsh but hopeful reality.Combining his trademark wit and sharp brilliance, Wittgenstein Jr is Lars Iyer’s most assured and ambitious novel yet—as impressive, inventive and entertaining as it is extraordinarily stirring.

This is going to be a short review. I’m just going to be honest. I didn’t get it – there were moments where I had glimmers of ideas where I thought I might be understanding something — but then it just went right over my head. Kind of like DeLillo’s Underworld I have a hard time giving this book any rating because I really think that I just did not get the deeper meaning that Iyers was aiming for. 

Despite that this book is beautifully written and there are many quotes that I highlighted that could stand alone and feel deep and important. 

“The failure to launch. To leave your house. To leave your room. To leave your bed. To open your eyes in the morning. How easily it could happen! One mistimed bout of depression and that would be it – the rest of your life, in your parents’ house, on soul rotting medication.” p. 164

As far at the Tournament of Books goes – I honestly have no idea how this will fare. (Maybe that goes part in parcel with not understanding the book.) I can’t see it winning, though – not with the other great books that I’ve read. 

“Why is the drive to understand so close to the drive to misunderstand?, he asks. Why is the urge to think almost identical to the urge not to think?” p. 122

Perhaps this book will be more accessible to those with a stronger background in philosophy. If anyone has read this and feels like they ‘get it’… I’d love to hear from you.

“We’re drowning in openness, he says. In our sense of the possible. We’re ready to take anything in – to learn about anything, and therefore about nothing. Everything is available to use, and therefore nothing is available to us. Everything is at our disposal, and therefore nothing is at our disposal.” p. 76

New Century Reading has a similar review here. I think she’s also doing the whole Tournament List too! 

What about you, Reader? Have you read this one? What’s the last book that you read that you didn’t feel like you ‘got’?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Us Conductors

Posted 9 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Us ConductorsUs Conductors by Sean Michaels
Published by Tin House Books on May 19th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 464
Goodreads
five-stars

Us Conductors is the imagined story of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, inventor of the theremin--one of the first electric musical instruments--and his unrequited love for Clara Rockmore, its greatest player. A tale of espionage and electricity, it takes readers from the gardens of St. Petersburg to the Jazz-Age nightclubs of New York, through concert halls, speakeasies, and the Siberian wastes. Sean Michaels’s debut novel is based on the true events of Termen’s life: his invention of the theremin, in Russia, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution; his decade as a Manhattan celebrity and secret spy, jostling with Gershwin and building weapon detectors for Alcatraz; and his eventual return to Stalin’s USSR. As the novel reaches its devastating climax, Termen is sent out into the Gulag--first to a forced labor camp and then to a prison for scientists—and bears witness to some of the Cold War’s deepest atrocities. But like the theremin, Us Conductors is also an eerie and magical invention. Subtle, thrilling, and melancholy, it is a story of secrets, of human ingenuity, of the lengths one goes to survive, and, ultimately, of the undiminishing hope for love that keeps us alive.

This book has been flying under the radars of U.S. (and possibly most international) readers. Despite having won the Giller Prize in Canada, for some reason it has not managed to ‘make it’ outside of that country. I will forever be indebted to Tanya at 52 Books or Bust for convincing me to read this with her brilliant review of this novel.

This book meets at the intersection of music, science, history, and unrequited love. Despite the blurb, this is not a epistolary novel. It is one long narrative presented in two parts. Michaels veers between sections that are clearly written to Clara and expository sections where most of the action takes place. 

I found myself delighted with the ‘name dropping’ of 20’s and 30’s musicians that are now a part of classical and jazz music canon. There are discussions on Shostakovich, meetings with Glenn Miller. Many classical composers attended concerts by Termen while he was in New York – and quite frankly – it’s impressive that this man and his instrument that I had only vague knowledge of made such a huge impact on the music world at the time. His instrument, the theremin, is a testament to how closely music and science can intersect. 

But wait, there’s more. So you’re not interested in music or science? That’s okay too. This book covers the USSR’s cold war espionage and the horrors of the gulags under Stalin. While this is still primarily what I would consider a character driven novel, there is plenty of action and intrigue to go with it. The story is immensely readable and highly enjoyable. Despite this being a Canadian novel, it feels remarkably American. (Which is part of the reason I don’t understand why it hasn’t been more successful in the U.S.) 

This is a fabulous novel that transcends all the categories you want to try to put it in. Absolutely, without a doubt, you should read it. Since it is a true piece of historical fiction I found myself promptly ordering the non-fiction title Theremin: Ether, Music, and Espionage by: Albert Glinsky and requesting from the library the DVD for the 1993 documentary on the subject Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

I’ll leave you with this clip of Clara Rockmore (Termen’s unrequited love interest) playing Saint-Saën’s ‘The Swan’ which is one of the first pieces that Termen introduced to listeners when demonstrating his new instrument.

 
If you’re further interested in the theremin, here’s a Ted Talk/performance on it!
 
So, Reader, have you read anything that seems to be under the radar that is absolutely brilliant lately? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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An Untamed State: A Tournament of Books Selection

Posted 21 January, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

An Untamed State: A Tournament of Books SelectionAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Published by Grove Press on 2014
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 370
Goodreads
five-stars

Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have already earned her an enthusiastic audience. In An Untamed State, she delivers an assured debut about a woman kidnapped for ransom, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over thirteen days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath. 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.

Reviewing An Untamed State hopped up on cough medicine and generally feeling ill may not be advisable, but I’m going to try it anyway. It’s a powerful book, powerfully written, with a powerful message. That message, like it or leave it, is feminism.

Before reading An Untamed State I have read maybe half of Bad Feminist and admire Gay as an essayist and someone who is making waves (meaningful waves) in current American feminism – attempting to grapple it out of the hands of upper-middle class white women and spread it for ALL THE PEOPLE. The cough syrup is rearing its head already, no?

This book is raw and powerful. Gay gives descriptions of rape and abuse that are written on a page of onion skin. By that I mean that the reader is sheltered from the worst of the abuse through a layer of beautiful, heart wrenching prose. The tug and pull between Mireille’s past, present, and future, is a haunting and difficult part of the novel.

For whatever reason, these novels of abuse and survival are not ‘hard’ reads for me. An Untamed State was harrowing, yes. But just as other novels have left me with me – so has this one done. I know that my privileged upper-middle class, white cis-woman experiences are a part of it – I’ve never encountered real fear or hardship – for whatever reason – I’ve always been shielded from the most terrible parts of life. This does not negate my own difficulties. But all the same An Untamed State is one of those books that lifts the veil on the realities that even the wealthiest face in a lawless, yet beautiful country such as Haiti.

For me the most difficult part of the novel was the not the physical abuse and torment that Mireille faced at the hands of her kidnappers. It was the psychological scars and pain that would not perhaps ever heal from the experience. Maybe this is because I have known psychological pain where I have not known the terror of physical brutality. My heart ached when following her return she suffered from PTSD, when she was unable to ‘pull it together’ or even verbalize why everything was spiraling out of control after her return to the States. This part of the novel has not left me the way that the section on the torments of her kidnapping have.

Gay balances all of this horror and pain with great kindness. The patience and love that is shown by her mother-in-law is unexpected and because of that it is also more beautiful. 

I highly recommend this book to everyone. The difficult reading combined with the beautiful prose makes this a meaningful read. If you’re a rape/kidnapping/abuse survivor, please know this probably will have triggers. 

Andi had an excellent review of this yesterday.

What about you, Reader? Have you read An Untamed State? Do you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone enough?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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