I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert on PTSD. But I suspect Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State, knows only slightly more than I do.
In Untamed, Mireille Duval Jameson is kidnapped by resentful thugs. Miri’s Haitian father made good as a civil engineer in the U.S. Now he’s back in Haiti, where his wealth sticks out like a whale on a baseball diamond. But it’s not infinite. Therefore, he won’t pay ransom.
So there sits Miri, confined in a hot and squalid room, enduring unspeakable things (this is not a clean read), missing her husband and baby, hoping somebody will come for her.
Miri wed a Nebraska farm boy. Gay portrays their romance as boy sees girl, boy chases girl, girl says go-away-get-lost-I-don’t-want-you, boy still chases, boy gets girl. Really, how is it done? I haven’t had much luck winning friends and lovers when I pull a hissy, get-lost act.
But what the author’s doing here is setting up a Mireille who will fight her captors. Miri gets in some good punches and some zinger lines. But I kept thinking of this book in which the author reports on a boxing match between a fierce woman at the top of her sport and a transgender opponent. The lady got creamed, spent some days recovering in a hospital.
So, no matter how much Gay wants to write an opus to Girl Power, no matter how much I’d like to cheer on Miri as she bites, scratches and kicks, I don’t buy it.
Then there are the post-rescue chapters, a contrivance where the traumatized Miri can’t stop saying, “I’m am nothing. I am meat.” Or “I wanted that drink of water. I didn’t want it.” Or Miri making dramatic exits and running away, pretty agile stuff for a woman with broken ribs and glass-cut feet.
In the end, I gave up. I was more eager to check Gay’s Amazon reviews than learn Miri’s fate.
Like I said, I’m no expert on PTSD. But if Gay did her research . . .
Hey, let’s check her acknowledgments page.
Hmm. Yes. I see. She thanks editors, her writing group, special friends. But not a word about experts.
Can we just call up Elizabeth Smart and get her opinion?
Photo credit: Blue Skyz Miami via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND