21 April, 2014

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

In the state of Guerrero in Mexico, in a rural area run by the powerful men of the drug cartels, lives Ladydi Garcia Martinez. She and her mother live in a small dirt-floor shack on a mountain. The mountain has no men - they have all gone away to the United States and the women fend for themselves and protect their girl children by making them ugly, so they will not be kidnapped by the drug cartels.

Outside every house is a hole for the young girls to hide in when they hear the cartel SUVs coming, so they will not be stolen. But one day, Ladydi's friend Paula does not hear the warnings and she is taken to be a slave by one of the most powerful men in northern Mexico. Ladydi is profoundly affected by this, especially as on her return, Paula is damaged - tattooed by some man and cigarette-burned by herself, barely able to speak.

The story hangs on Ladydi's observations of her living conditions, which she realises are not usual - "I'd seen my life on television". She is both inside the events and an outside observer of what goes on around her. She seems so passive and so without any control of what happens to her and her mother seems a wreck - pining over her runaway husband, drinking and watching TV all day long.

Usually I would be overwhelmed by such hopelessness. However, I liked Ladydi: the things she noticed and the way she told things kept it all together, and getting to the bottom of what happened to Paula was another thing to keep me wanting to hear more.

Ladydi does leave the mountain. Will she get to a better life?  Read it to find out.

Title: Prayers for the Stolen
Author: Jennifer Clement
Published: London, Hogarth, 2014
ISBN: 9781781090176

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