In the mountains of Guerrero, there is more to be afraid of than the deadly snakes, spiders and scorpions that lurk in the rubber plant jungle. The rumble of an engine chills the blood, sending teenage girls scurrying into holes dug in the ground, desperate to avoid being stolen by prowling Narco's. Those who are taken never return but every one is aware of their fate - to be used, abused, traded, sold and eventually murdered by the cartels.
Ladydi Garcia Martinez, named for the British princess, lives with her mother, a kleptomaniac alcoholic, in an impoverished rural Mexican village 'an hour by bus and four hours by mule from Acapulco'. Her father is long gone, like all of the men in the village, having made a new life for himself in America. From birth Ladydi, and her friends, are dressed as boys, until puberty hits and their mothers blacken their daughters teeth and rub charcoal into their skin in a desperate effort to protect them from the notice of the cartels.
"The best thing you can be in Mexico is a ugly girl"
Despite the poverty, the hardship, and daily dangers, there is no trace of self-pity in Ladydi's voice, her life is simply what it is, and not much different from that of her friends, Paula, Maria and Estifani, though each girl faces their own additional challenges. It is not always easy to read, for though rarely explicit, Clements portrays the society in which Ladydi lives, and her experiences, with searing honesty.
Clements writing is simple, even stark, yet it possess an unusual beauty that illustrates the harsh landscape and society in which the novel is set. The narrative is well paced, some may be irritated by the lack of speech marks - I barely noticed.
Prayers for the Stolen may be fiction but this way of life is reality for too many of the women and girls in Mexico. Thought provoking, moving and powerful this is a story of compelling character and courage.