Prayers for the Stolen

Prayers for the Stolen

by Jennifer Clement

Overview: Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.

While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions.

An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.

Rona Simmons (02/03/16): Jennifer Clement first came into my consciousness through an article I ripped from the back issue of a writers magazine. I can’t credit the specific source as I have misplaced or discarded the original. Though the article was a profile of several upcoming authors a comment about Jennifer’s latest book (Prayers for the Stolen) was so intriguing I bumped the novel to the top of my to be read list. That’s something I rarely do. I try to be fair and read books in the order I added them recognizing that each one in the stack is a topic that called to me for one reason or the other.

Perhaps I made an exception this time because two characters in my current work in progress are Mexican immigrants who cross the border illegally into the US and start a life filled with the constant dread of being discovered. Jennifer, a Mexican, is of course much closer and more familiar with the issue of desperate young women, those girls who remain in Mexico but are abducted and sold into slavery of one sort or another. Her short but very compelling novel deals with the terror of growing up as a girl in rural Mexico. It is nearly incomprehensible to the average reader on this side of the border. You’d almost think it fantasy. In fact you’d like to think it fantasy and just close the book and let the memory fade away. But there the horror sits and festers. “She was washed clean, her hair roped into a long black braid that, during the night sleep, had coiled around her neck.” It’s an eerie and uncomfortable image.
Rating: *****

Martha Louise Hunter (05/14/14): I’ve just finished an incredible book – the kind you stay up all night reading because you just have to know what happens. Jennifer Clement writes in a traditional Mexican oral-history style to tell a story that’s full of emotion, myths and symbolism, through the voice of fifteen-year-old Ladydi.

It’s a sad story set in a small, poor Mexican village, in a world of blistering heat, heroin and deadly scorpions where teenage girls are never safe from the black SUVs that can arrive at any moment and whisk them away to the local drug lord’s compound to become part of his sex harem. The only teenaged girl who’s safe is Ladydi’s friend Maria, a girl with a hair lip who looks remarkably like Ladydi’s father. But, her other friend Paula, who’s more beautiful than Jennifer Lopez isn’t so lucky. Fresh from her morning shower and wearing nothing but a bath towel when the SUVs roll into town, Paula is ripped from her mother’s and becomes one of “The Stolen.”

Although Ladydi narrates, the true star of the story is her mother Rita, a bitter and desperate woman who’s addicted to watching the History Channel, stealing anything that’s not nailed-down and drinking beer all day long; but she wasn’t always that way. Ladydi’s father slept with half the village and deserted them for a job in the United States, leaving Rita with a heart full of both hate and yearning. With all of the danger surrounding them, you’d think she would take Ladydi and leave the village for good, but that will never happen -- if Ladydi’s father ever decided to return, he’d never know how to find them.

Maria’s big brother Mike is a bad boy with four cellphones, an iPod blaring rap music in his ear, a flashy car, and more cash than everyone in the village combined. He gets Ladydi mixed-up in a horrible situation involving a pound of missing heroin and the murder of the drug lord who stole her friend Paula, and that’s all I’m going to tell you – not what happens to Paula, not what happens to Mike, Maria and Rita, and especially not what happens to Ladydi, but I will tell you this: Prayers for the Stolen is truly funny. Maybe not laugh-out-loud-funny – it is a story filled with tragedy and heartbreak, after all -- but Rita’s quirkiness, crazy advice and the way she looks at the world will keep you entertained. Not only that, but Ladydi has quite a way with words. Get a copy of this book because I think you’ll like it as much as I did.
Rating: ****

Have you read this book, too?  Click here to submit your review.


Join Our Email List
For Email Marketing you can trust


Send Out Cards


Constant Contact