Prayers for the Stolen is set in a tiny village outside of Chilpancingo in Guerrero, where poverty and alcoholism are the least of these characters’ worries. Drug traffickers rule the area. People are kidnapped on a regular basis. Girls are either disguised as boys or made “ugly” in a seemingly vain attempt to prevent being abducted and sold. Doctors and teachers appear intermittently, sometimes only with armed guards, because they are too afraid to venture into the area. Law enforcement and the justice system are corrupt. And on and on and on.
If a cartel kidnaps you, like the Zetas, then you go to the land of dead immigrants, a special death place, without a birth certificate or gravestone, and nothing is worse than this.
Ladydi is a compelling main character who pulls you into her dangerous world, making it impossible to turn away. She shows us the importance of close family relationships and friendships in the face of violent, appalling conditions. With a bright and optimistic spirit, she perseveres when it seems completely futile to forge ahead.
In many ways, I was reminded of Silvia Avallone’s Swimming to Elba: How does a person escape the circumstances of the location in which she happens to be born? What compels her to try at all, when things are so dire?
I felt lukewarm toward the ending, but at least Clement leaves her readers with the possibility of hope. Prayers for the Stolen is a powerful, shocking novel that left me haunted by the plight of its characters.