Prayers for the Stolen, Jennifer Clement
Published November 4th 2014 by Hogarth
Paperback, 240 pages
Source: Blogging for Books
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.
I love stories about brave young women so the description for Prayers for the Stolen immediately drew me in. Jennifer Clement pulls no punches in describing what life can be like in Mexico right now. On the first page I read, “The best thing you can be in Mexico is an ugly girl.” I knew this was not going to be a book about ugly girls and that it would break my heart a bit. This was a beautifully written book on a heartwrenching topic. 13 year-old Ladydi lives in a tiny village where there no girls are born. Every baby is a boy, until their mother’s have no choice but to let them be girls. But then they black out their teeth and dirty their faces to cover any beauty and to keep them safe. There are no men in the village. They’ve all either left for the United States or are basically lost to the drug trade. Yet these girls still want to learn, they want to go to school and they have their own dreams for the future.
I loved Ladydi and her determination to live her life despite the violence, the chaos and the moments of sheer terror. I cannot imagine what life is like in rural Mexico but this book gives scenes that were both bleak and beautiful. I don’t want to know honestly what it would feel like to have to hide my daughter lest she be kidnapped at gunpoint from my home. I live in enough fear as a parent day to day in the comfort of the US- but Clement made you really feel for Ladydi’s mother. She’s trapped by poverty and the hopes that her husband will return and while she’s slowly giving up on her own life she still wants better for her daughter. Though I knew violence was coming, I certainly didn’t expect the twists Ladydi’s path took. Maybe a few points seemed obvious, but they didn’t take away from the overall story for me at all.
This was a beautifully written book that was hopeful despite the brutality of its origins. Ladydi’s resilience made this a great read.
Last thought-How beautiful is that cover?!
Thank you Blogging for Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review.