“Don’t ever pray for love and health, Mother said. Or money. If God hears what you really want, He will not give it to you. Guaranteed.”
Ladydi Garcia Martinez has her prayers to comfort her but little else in this story of life, love and community; Prayers for the Stolen is set against the backdrop of fear, that fear felt by women living in a world ruthlessly run by men. There is a brief moment of love found within the pages but this is soon replaced by the comfort of sisterhood, an overarching theme of Clements’ novel.
As I read the first page, the first chapter, I am right in there – in the mountain heat of Guerrero, Mexico, ‘one of the hottest places on earth’, and in the fear of living as a girl. Girls are stolen in this place. No one wants to admit to giving birth to a girl, they are all ‘boys’.
I feel afraid as I read. I feel afraid for the women who are constantly on the look out for the next SUV driving up the tracks; the girls ready to dive into holes like rabbits. Even a humanitarian visit by Mexican Doctors is one full of fear and suspicion; guarded as they are, even the soldiers fear the appearance of the SUVs that pass by whilst the women wait for the operations to take place.
Colour is a recurring theme in this story but the colours weave in and out of the webs of sanctuary and evil. There are red fingernails, snakes, ants and rivers of menstrual blood and there are deadly white scorpions and white worms who can only be found buried underground. The blood of menstruation symbolises a community of women whose friendships are steadfast and strong. And, yet it is also a symbol of women’s loneliness and abandonment.
This is a compulsive read; the matter-of-fact voice of the narrator Ladydi engages the reader’s sense of outrage for a life lived in such a fearful setting. Clement does not sensationalise the lives of whom she writes, rather allowing the reader to fill that box for themselves. In doing so, the reader will find a book filled with injustice, humour and friendship.
An exceptional portrait of the tragic lives of a community of women, Prayers for the Stolen is a ‘must have’.
(Please note: I received this book from the Blogging for Books programme in exchange for this review.)