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Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

Prayers for the Stolen - Jennifer Clement

This is a very short novel, almost a novella, written in a simple, rather dreamy stream-of-consciousness style: first person, no quotation marks, jumping around and speeding through events. The subject is the plight of rural Mexicans, particularly women, and I phrase it that way because I get the sense the author was driven to write more by the subject matter than the plot or characters. Despite the brief page count, the book includes the stories of many minor characters, facing everything from kidnapping by drug traffickers to AIDS to nearly dying in an attempt to cross the border.


As for the plot, the book follows its narrator, Ladydi, through her childhood in a mountain village nearly empty of men, then as a teenager leaving the village and getting into trouble. It’s an interesting story that I flew through, full of adversity and of women helping one another. None of the characters are three-dimensional, however; for instance, apparently the most important trait of Ladydi’s best friend is that she had a cleft palate as a child. Even though she has corrective surgery, Clement can’t seem to stop talking about the fact that Maria once had a cleft palate whenever she appears. The others have a bit more personality, but they still feel more like representatives of tragedy and resilience (or lack thereof) than strong characters in their own right.


Not a book I’d discourage people from reading, but not one I expect to linger long in my mind. I would be interested in finding a book by a Mexican author that tackles similar subjects, and with more space to develop the characters and their stories.