A haunting story of love and survival that introduces an unforgettable literary heroine
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 chose this book because it didn’t sound like something I would gravitate to purchasing in a bookstore. That’s become pretty consistent with my Blogging for Books approach.
What isn’t consistent? My opinion about Prayers for the Stolen. It has a very different narrator than I’m used to – the first few pages were jarring because she would change subjects and hop around varying tangents before settling back into the main memory/observation. I did get used to it after the first chapter, but it made me want to read the book in one sitting because I worried I would have too hard a time getting back into the narration style. I’d rather want to read a book in one sitting because I have no reason or desire to do anything else, because there is nothing more important than turning pages and discovering what happens next.
There were two stand-out elements of Prayers for the Stolen. Clement’s prose can be breathtaking. She reminds me of Tana French in how she scatters these gems of lines or passages throughout the book, glimmering on the page. If some people can have a shine to them, some writers can, too – and Clement has that talent, that polish.
The book itself features mostly female characters, and they fall into the Gillian Flynn category of portraying a range of flaws and vices, adding a shade of realism. At times they alternated between vicious and wounded. Sometimes I find that characters have troubling existing beyond the page — that the author has crafted a unique, compelling character but one I can only imagine within the context of the novel, imprisoned in between flimsy covers. Not so with Prayers for the Stolen – Ladydi, her mother, and her friends are all women I can see and imagine.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. I selected the book based on my own preference, and all opinions are my own.