Book Review: Prayers for the Stolen, Jennifer Clement (2014)

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Poetry in Motion

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books. Trigger warning for rape.)

Now we make you ugly, my mother said. She whistled. Her mouth was so close she sprayed my neck with her whistle-spit. I could smell beer. In the mirror I watched her move that piece of charcoal across my face. It’s a nasty life, she whispered.

It’s my first memory. She held an old cracked mirror to my face. I must have been about five years old. The crack made my face look as if it had been broken into two pieces. The best thing you can be in Mexico is an ugly girl.

Ladydi Garcia Martínez lives on a remote mountain in Guerrero, Mexico. Her neighbors are the lizards, the snakes, the scorpions, the narco-traffickers – and women. Many women, though fewer than in years past. Women who dress their daughters in boy’s clothing; color their teeth yellow to mimic rot; wash the grime off their bodies only to get dirty again; and dig child-sized holes in the corn fields to hide their daughters from human traffickers.

Life wasn’t always life this. Once an entire community – men and women, young and old – lived on Ladydi’s mountainside. Long before she was born, the Sun Highway connecting Mexico City and nearby Acapulco was built, cleaving the village in half. Soon the men left in search of work, both in Mexico and across the border in the United States. Some returned for the occasional visit; many did not. Ladydi’s father falls into the second category. His philandering and eventual abandonment only compounded her mother’s bitterness and reliance on alcohol – a fact to which the beer bottle graveyard in their shed can attest.

(More below the fold…)