Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Prayers for the Stolen

Title:  Prayers for the Stolen
Author:  Jennifer Clement
Publication Information:  Hogarth. 2014. 240 pages.
ISBN:  080413880X / 978-0804138802

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through Edelweiss free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Blogging for Books.

Favorite Quote:  "You might ask how can the world forget about a human being, but it happens all the time."

Guerrero is the state of Mexico that is home to the beach resort town of Acapulco. Archaeologists have found evidence of human history in the area dating back to 300 BC. The area has rain forests, mountains, rich natural resources, and a beautiful Pacific coastline. Unfortunately, currently it is also overrun with political guerrillas and drug cartels, creating a reign of lawlessness and terror.

The "stolen" refers to the frequent kidnapping and disappearance of women in this area. The rural communities are often communities of women as the men migrate to the United States seeking work. Some men maintain the relationships with the families back home; some simply disappear. Because of the mountainous and forested geography of the region, law enforcement is difficult.

This book presents a very powerful picture of one such rural community. It speaks of the steps people take to keep their girls safe:  "On our mountain only boys were born, and some of them turned into girls around the age of eleven. Then these boys had to turn into ugly girls who sometimes had to hide in holes in the ground." It also tells the story of the girls who are stolen and the girls who leave.

Ladydi Garcia Martinez - named not for the positive image of Lady Diana but for a constant reminder of what Prince Charles did to her - is a young girl living in this world. Her life is that of school, friends, family, community, and home. However, school is taught by transient teachers who come to this community to fulfill their own goals and leave soon after. Friends are "stolen" and lost, sometimes returning shrouded in sadness and mystery. Family is a father who abandons her and a mother filled with the resentment at her husband's behavior. Community is people constantly struggling to survive through poverty and danger. Home is where you dig holes to hide in when "they" come for you, where dead bodies may be found on your doorstep, and where you hide your very identity to somehow escape notice and keep from being stolen.

The first part of the book is the most difficult to get through. The story is told in vignettes and does not follow a chronological sequence. The first person stream of consciousness narratives goes from story to story of Ladydi's life. The reader has to infer and understand the chronology based on the descriptions. The individual vignettes are moving, and together, they create a depressing picture of the reality in this community.

Creating a picture of the society seems to be the goal of the narrative rather than the development of characters and plot. The book meets this goal successfully describing the depressing reality of drug trafficking, human trafficking, poverty, alcoholism and other things that threaten this community. However, because of the structure, the story appears far away and removed from the reader.

The second half of the book moves much quicker and centers on a sequence of events. The picture drawn carries forward all the tragedy of the first half of the book but becomes much more plot driven. The central plot line creates a strong focal image to anchor and build the emotions of the book.

The success of this book lies in the awareness it raises about the sad conditions in which communities such as this one live. I find myself researching the news reports to read the "real" stories after reading this fictional one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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