Wild at heart

Roxane Gay, a regular contributor to Salon and author of short fiction and essays, has written a debut novel simply stunning in its violence and in its response to that violence. Although it starts like a fairy tale, Mireille's life quickly goes seriously off the tracks on a trip to Haiti with her well-to-do émigré family and her American husband when she is kidnapped and held for ransom. Graphic as her torment is, her wealthy father's unwillingness to pay ransom prolongs her travail; he knows that if he does, the rest of his family—including those still in Haiti—will be targets. Then there's the constant, overwhelming pressure of poverty and privilege colliding in a small place. An amazing first novel, An Untamed State (Grove Atlantic, Black Cat; $16) is both hard to read and hard to put down.