There are a lot of books in the world that I know I should read because they will, theoretically, make me a better person. Not, like, self help books (although I’m sure some of those would be beneficial too…how do people ever save money?). Books that will teach me about parts of the world I’ll likely never see, in the first person, in the past or the present. Books that will broaden my empathy and understanding.
But I don’t want to read them because THEY’RE UPSETTING. And not in the way Gillian Flynn is upsetting. Upsetting in a way that stays with me for a long time after I finish reading them because they are about the real cruelties that humans regularly inflict on one another. And usually they show how both the perpetrators of violence and their victims are, in fact, victims of the same circumstances. And the whole world is to blame.
We’ll call that the introduction to my book club’s newest choice, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. I haven’t finished it yet. I’m actually nowhere near finishing it… I’m on page 19 and I’m stalled. The book is about a woman of Haitian descent who goes with her husband and their baby to visit her parents in their upper-class home in Haiti and gets violently kidnapped while they’re on their way to the beach. And…that’s all I know because all that happens in the first 19 pages. Other than that all I know is that one of my friends from book club texted me “So the word “gun” was just used as a euphemism multiple times in this book and I’m now hoping it can’t possibly get much worse… Upon further reading, I’m not even sure it was a euphemism and that makes it so much more disturbing.” And although I have reasonably deduced what happened already, really, I just don’t want to read that.
I also felt this way about Half of a Yellow Sun (a wonderfully written book about the 1960s civil war in Nigeria that made me empathize with a rapist and then gradually grow to hate everyone on the entire planet and want to never go outside again). Every time they left their house I was like “Nooooo! Stay home! Stay safe!” And they never listened. And that was a long ass book to worry through.
This one too.
So I’ll let you know more when I finish it… So, in like a year probably.