Book Review: Prayers for the Stolen

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As news of the kidnapping of the 300 girls in Borno, Nigeria captures our attention (and outrage and sad horrifying and sickening feelings), I remembered that a few months back I read Prayers for the Stolen and my thoughts about this very powerful and heart-wrenching story were still due to be posted.

Prayers for the Stolen is so aptly named, as is its cover art. If you take just one moment to close your eyes and envision what these kidnapped girls are enduring right now, you will also cry and pray for them knowing that no one should ever bear witness to or experience the horror they are experiencing at this very moment. You can well imagine then that Prayers for the Stolen is not a book to reach for if you need a bright, happy, pick-me-up.

But, please, do pick this one up.

It is powerfully written and done so in a fairly compact number of pages.  Most importantly though is that it will never leave your mind or let your soul rest knowing what Ladydi and the countless number of girls are forced to experience and overcome every day in countries like Mexico, where Prayers for the Stolen takes place, or in Nigeria where the pain and suffering for so many girls is right now being brought to the world’s attention.

Ladydi is sharing her story and the story of the girls in her village in Guerrero, Mexico. She is indeed named for Princess Diana, just not in the way you think it is to honour her, but rather named so because her mother wanted to bring attention to the betrayal of Diana by her husband, Prince Charles.

Ladydi lives in a place where being born a girl is a deadly curse, and a pretty one even worse. The women in Guerrero, for their are no men here, they have all left to work in the US or Acapulco, have to dig holes to hide the girls when the big black SUVs driven by the drug dealers come rolling through the village. They purposely make their girls ugly – they blacken their teeth, make their skin to break out in ugly blemishes – all in hopes to turn the eyes of these drug lords away from their daughters.

In addition to hiding in holes when the sounds of SUVs roll by, they also have to continuously be on the run at the sounds of planes and helicopters. These planes and helicopters are dumping deadly pesticides all over their villages instead of on the poppy and marijuana crops they are intended to destroy. However, their fear of these drug cartels, and being shot down by them ensure they dump their loads on these unintended targets instead.

In Ladydi’s village, Paula is the most beautiful girl – she may likely be the most beautiful girl in all of Mexico. One day, she does not make it to her hiding place and is stolen and sold to the biggest, most well-known drug boss. Paula does manage to escape and again in Ladydi’s voice describes what it was like to see her friend return to the mountain where they live and to discover how her entire body has been covered in cigarette burns, and to sit quietly beside her good friend that now has a distant and sad stare.

Over and over again we are told a bleak, bleak story by Ladydi, but it is undoubtedly a compelling one. It is a brief read at just over 200 pages but is packed with many emotional and sad stories. It’s not really a difficult or very uncomfortable read, simply a tremendously sad and sorrowful one.

Jennifer Clement also published this article in the Borderland Beat entitled, Mexico’s lost daughters: how young women are sold into the sex trade by drug gangs” that is well worth the read as well.



Literary Hoarders Penny rev