Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen is a story about women in poverty surviving in the mountains of Mexico. In a community where all the men have left for the U.S. and where cartels roam unchecked, the women proclaim loudly that “Thank god the baby was a boy.” Girls of the mountain are kidnapped at gunpoint and sold as slaves. It’s not a guarantee of safety; all the babies in the village are ‘boys.’
Prayers for the Stolen follows Ladydi (pronounced Lady Di), who recounts the stories of the girls in her village and that of her and her mother.
This book reminds me very much of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. The subject matter in both books is similar, though Clement’s story isn’t written in vignettes and focuses less on the sense of a community. Prayers for the Stolen is about women working hard against their circumstances and a young woman’s observation of her female companions.
Ladydi’s life with her mother is filled with betrayal and insecurity. Her mother is a drunk who resents everyone, quick to place blame on others and dedicated to the many grudges she holds. Ladydi’s mother is one of the more interesting characters of the novel. She’s got an uncertain sense of right and wrong, an unforgiving nature, and a temperament wont to change. Her mother is superstitious, believing in curses and that prayers for the things you want always go unanswered or worse. She is, however, utterly reliable. The portrayal is vivid and is often eerie.
Ladydi is more often an observer than a participant in her story. When she does appear to be engaged, it doesn’t last long. Her excursion outside the mountain in Acapulco is quick and mostly displays her own naivety. She’s betrayed by the sole male child of the village and the consequences are extremely serious. Surprisingly, she doesn’t seem to resent him. This would be off-putting and overly saintly if she didn’t have moments where she channels her mother’s anger and bitterness.
The story is slow at times and is more of a character study than anything else. The ending was a bit too sappy and convenient for my tastes.
I received a copy of Prayers for the Stolen for free in exchange for an honest review via bloggingforbooks.com