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Prayers for the Stolen Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 4, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hogarth (November 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080413880X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804138802
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On Writing Prayers for the Stolen

In Mexico today women are stolen off the street or taken from their houses at gunpoint. Some women never return home from their work place, a party or from walking to the corner. They are all young and poor and pretty.

I have spent over ten years listening to women affected by Mexico’s violence as I was interested in writing about women in Mexico’s drug culture. This was a logical step for me after having written the novel A True Story Based on Lies, which is about the mistreatment of servants in Mexico. I interviewed the girlfriends, wives and daughters of drug traffickers and quickly came to realize that Mexico is a warren of hidden women. They hide in places that look like supermarkets or grocery stores on the outside, but that are really hiding places with false façades; in the basements of convents, where women live with their children and have not seen daylight for years; and in privately-owned hotels that are rented by the government -- a surreal, Third World concept of a Witness Protection Program.

In rural Mexico, the poorest families dig holes in their cornfields. This is how they hide their women from traffickers. It is as if they planted their daughters in the earth so they would not be stolen.

At Mexico City’s Santa Martha Acatitla Prison for women, I have listened to prisoners who have been deeply touched or have actively participated in the violence that Mexico is experiencing today. My conversations with assassins, drug dealers, women who claim to be innocent, and with famous criminals exposed cruel and tender lives. In that prison of rough, bare cement walls, I looked at drawings of shells, sand and blue fish drawn by a seventy-year-old woman who had sold fish tacos on a beach before she was forced by drug traffickers to carry drugs across the Mexican border into the United States. She told me that she liked to steal the prison’s saltshakers and rub salt on her skin so she would not forget the sea.

After listening to the women in hiding and the women in jail, as well as the women who have been victims of crime, the primary story for me became Mexico’s missing women and children.

For years I had heard or read: she disappeared; she never came back; today she would be celebrating her sixteenth birthday; I am praying for a sign; she went missing; some men came for her; if I go to the police they laugh at me; she was just walking, just walking down the street; she never called back; she never called; I can see her walk through the door; that man knows where my daughter is; he took some other girls; I feel she’s still alive; somebody sent someone for my daughter; someone sent somebody for my daughter.

Although there are no exact statistics, the number of women trafficked in Mexico is very high. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. (Note this estimate does not include those trafficked within national borders.) Most people who are stolen and sold are subjected to sex trafficking or other forms of modern slavery: forced labor, debt...

A woman can be sold to different owners many times, and even dozens of times a day as a prostitute, while a plastic bag of drugs can be sold once.

Prayers for the Stolen is a novel about Ladydi Garcia Martínez. She is part of a community, like so many in rural Mexico, that has been decimated by drug traffickers, government agricultural policies and illegal immigration. Her home is a village near the once glamorous port of Acapulco. Her story, although inspired by truth, is fiction.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Clement’s powerful new novel, Ladydi Garcia Martinez tells the story of how she grew up in a remote Mexican mountain village disguised as a boy. This was to ensure that the marauding gangs of drug dealers believed that the village was populated solely by adult women and young boys. No men and absolutely no pretty young girls. It’s a survival strategy that works only marginally well. When it doesn’t work, well, it’s bad. It seems as if these thugs are always lurking, always hovering over villages, always ready to kidnap young, lovely girls. Ironically, it is the lure of this gang life or the flimsy promise of making it in the U.S. that has induced the men of Ladydi’s village to leave. And so her History Channel–educated mother does the best she can with whatever meager means are available to raise and protect her daughter in this tenuous, matriarchal culture. It is her mother’s pliable morality that defines her character and in a paradoxical way arms Ladydi to survive in modern Mexico. Clement’s deft first-person narrative style imbues authenticity to her depiction of a world turned upside down by drug cartels, police corruption, and American exploitation. --Donna Chavez --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Jennifer Clement's new novel Prayers for the Stolen was awarded the NEA Fellowship in Literature 2012 and will be published by Hogarth (USA and UK) in February 2014. The book has also been purchased by Suhrkamp, (Germany), Editions Flammarion, Gallimard (France), De Bezige Bij (Holland), Cappelen Damm (Norway), Hr Ferdinand (Denmark), Bonniers Förlag (Sweden), Laguna (Serbia), Euromedia (Czech Republic), Ikar (Slovakia) Lumen (Spain/Mexico), Guanda (Italy), Like (Finland), Libri (Hungary), Bjartur (Iceland),Rocco (Brazil),Israeli Penn Publishing (Israel, Muza (Poland) and Sindbad (Russia).


Jennifer Clement studied English Literature and Anthropology at New York University and also studied French literature in Paris, France. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

Clement is the author of the cult classic memoir Widow Basquiat (on the painter Jean Michel Basquiat) and two novels: A True Story Based on Lies, which was a finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction, and The Poison That Fascinates.
She is also the author of several books of poetry: The Next Stranger (with an introduction by W.S. Merwin); Newton's Sailor; Lady of the Broom and Jennifer Clement: New and Selected Poems. Her prize-winning story A Salamander-Child is published as an art book with work by the Mexican painter Gustavo Monroy.

Jennifer Clement was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Fellowship for Literature 2012. She is also the recipient of the UK's Canongate Prize. In 2007, she received a MacDowell Fellowship and the MacDowell Colony named her the Robert and Stephanie Olmsted Fellow for 2007-08. Clement is a member of Mexico's prestigious "Sistema Nacional de Creadores."


Jennifer Clement was President of PEN Mexico from 2009 to 2012. She lives in Mexico City, Mexico and, along with her sister Barbara Sibley, is the founder and director The San Miguel Poetry Week.

Customer Reviews

This book was a page turner from beginning to end and I quickly read it in one sitting.
Biddy Mulligan
Every day survived is a triumph of sorts, even if these triumphs remain uncelebrated and never lead to comfort or a change of circumstances.
Sarah-Hope
Jennifer Clement writes with a clarity that immerses the reader in this world, beautiful as well as frightening.
K. L. Cotugno

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sarah-Hope on February 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen is going on my “essentials” shelf, my place of honor for books that merit regular rereading.

Prayers for the Stolen is a hard read, but an absolutely brilliant read. By hard, I don’t mean turgid prose or endless, unnecessary detail. It’s a hard read in that the lives of all the characters are unrelentingly hard, but the reader so quickly becomes attached to these characters that after the first few pages one is absolutely committed to the book.

Prayers for the Stolen is primarily set in a small hillside community in Guerero, not far from Acapulco, where “Everyone’s goal was to never come back.” This community is a shadow of its former self—now divided by the highway to Acapulco, it’s been fragmented; all the males have left for work in the U.S. and most have broken ties with the wives and children left behind; and the women who remain are at the mercy of the members of the drug cartels that flourish in the area. It’s the women in this book who are “the stolen,” kidnapped by cartel members either for personal use or to be sold for profit.

The central characters in this book are a quartet of teen-aged girls growing up under the strict eyes of their mothers who do all they can, first to pass their daughters off as sons, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make their daughters ugly in hopes that this will spare them from abduction: hair is cut short and badly, teeth are deliberately stained with magic marker. These four are: Paula, a remarkable beauty; Estefani, whose mother is dying of AIDS; Maria, the illegitimate half-sister of the book’s narrator; and the narrator herself, Ladydi (as in England’s Lady Di).
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. Smiley on February 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Sullivan VINE VOICE on January 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Once I picked up this book, I couldn't put it down. The subject matter is pretty depressing, but the way Clement told the story and the quality of the prose she used to do so just kept me wanting more and more. The characters just came alive - everyone of them with a depth you wouldn't expect in just 200 pages. Being from the US, I also felt as though I learned something real about the state of both Mexico's drug and human trafficking as well as the impact to the women men leave behind to work in the US. This is the kind of story you don't hear on the news -- at least in the US. All in all this is a beautifully written, acidic and heart wrenching story and one that I will be recommending to my friends who enjoy impeccable writing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SPROUT on March 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Clement is a talented writer with the ability to make her writings so beautiful that it's almost poetic at times, but this is where the positive aspects of the book end.

She starts the book with such gusto and excitement, allowing the reader to enter into a colorful foreign world, no matter how dismal. And then she seems to grow as tired of writing the book as the reader grows of reading the book. Because of the narrations and lack of character development, she creates a great beginning and then pages of a flat, one dimensional story with one direction. The loose ends created seem to keep going, with no chance of being tied at. Then, all of a sudden towards the end of the book, the gusto and excitement appears again ...the beautiful writing...in a very sloppy and disappointing effort to tie up a few loose ends but failing to do so.

As the reader, I felt that I was driving down a highway in the desert which Clement so eloquently describes but with no end...just thirsty for some glimpse of intelligence.

Because Clement writing skills are apparent, I will try give her the benefit of the doubt in thinking that maybe she kept the story so flat and didn't flesh out the characters in an effort to accentuate the meager surroundings and poor quality of life. Unfortunately this left me bored and forcing my way through a rather short novel.

Not recommended. The book was written in such a way that I almost feel that Clement expected the reader to read the first few pages and get to so excited that they would just skip to the end ..well, then maybe this would have been a book worth my time. One star for a nice beginning, another for the end and a half for the somewhat beautiful but not quite quality writing.

Great story topic with a lot of potential, unfortunately the severity of the surroundings and the concept was not driven home properly. Reading a bunch of reviews or the blurb on the book proves to be more exciting.
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