Saturday, 8 March 2014

Mishel Reviews: Prayers for the Stolen - Jennifer Clement

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date:  February 2014 
Publisher: Hogarth
Pages:  224
Author Site:  http://www.jennifer-clement.com/
My Rating: 3.5/5 
Source: Received for review from NetGalley
Cover: It’s eye-catching and I like it better than the UK edition.

A haunting story of love and survival that introduces an unforgettable literary heroine
Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.

While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions.

An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.

Review:
This one was a different kind of reading experience for me. Ladydi’s story is exceptional in many ways: from the rural setting of Mexico to the almost tangible emotions to some truly unforgettable characters. But I was disappointed when Ladydi became more of a narrator than anything else. I couldn’t connect with her even though I tried. Every time I felt I got some sort of inkling of a personality it disappeared and I felt at a loss. She had many great traits but I forgot she was the main character at times. I was just really surprised at how much of a backseat she took to her own life story. Other characters, even minor ones, really stood out from the pages at time. Her mother is one that immediately comes to mind. Strong-willed and resilient in her own right, Ladydi’s mother can be described as a little mad as well. She really drove the story in the beginning for me. Even so I plan on reading more from Jennifer Clement. I like her unique style of writing and am very curious to see it shine through with other stories and characters. I think once I get used to her writing voice I’ll come to appreciate the way she does things. 

I do like how Clement shined light on some of the issues of the hardships and tragedies the people, especially the women, of Mexico face daily. From the politically involved and horrific drug wars to the tragic world of human trafficking I think Prayers for the Stolen can be used as an introductory awareness piece of work for those that aren’t as familiar with these things, like me. A lot of the time Clement let the reader fill in the blanks with their own imagination rather than blatantly shove violent or graphic details into her work. From the very first words of the book the reader knows Ladydi’s daily life is one of struggling survival. Yes, she lives in a poor rural part of Mexico but it’s more the danger of being stolen or killed that she must really survive. From her childhood to her teenage years, Ladydi must always remember to be a female is dangerous, to be beautiful or pretty is to invite the drug lords to the door of your home. 

I had trouble with the gaps within the plot and even the actual delivery of the story. I mentioned earlier that this was a unique reading experience for me and I could very well come to really like it once I become more familiar with Clement’s writing. However, as a first time reader of hers I just wasn’t won over. The lack of quotation marks took some getting used to and the indecisive pacing made it difficult to want to continue at times. Some things within the plot didn’t make sense to me as Ladydi got older and moved away from her home. Other things felt a little too wishy-washy and the story lost its vivid story-telling halfway through the book. The portrayal of Ladydi’s home and childhood stood out immensely with poetic descriptions and metaphors in the beginning. And then things kind of sizzled out and got lost. 

Again, while not a bad book in any light I just found myself a little disappointed. There were such strong moments within the story that makes me want to continue with Clement’s other books. Still Prayers for the Stolen is very insightful and has parts within that I promise will stay with you after you close the book. I’d recommend giving this one a borrow if you want to read it. See for yourself if it works for your reading tastes.



16 comments:

  1. I've been drawn to that cover so I'm disappointed that you didn't adore the book. I still may give it a try.

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    1. I liked it but was just disappointed with some aspects. I hope you still give it a go because I'd love to know your thoughts!

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  2. It is so hard when you cannot connect, I know for me at least it keeps me from immersing myself in the story no matter how good the setting.

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    1. I totally agree. I tried to get across that the book really had some good points in my review but the heroine having such a weak personality threw me off.

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  3. Ugh. I hate when I can't connect.

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    1. It loses major points for me as a reading experience Carole.

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  4. Bad things and bad books happen. Sorry for your disappointment.

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  5. That they do Anachronist. I hope I enjoy her other books more.

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  6. oh it's nice to try something new like that. I didn't know this one I confess so thank you.

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    1. It is nice to try something new. I enjoyed the author's writing and I hope I like her other books a little more.

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  7. Yeah . . . disappointing books are . . . disappointing. I find that reading an old favorite gets me past it though ;)

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  8. Oh, the cover is so pretty, so even sadder that the book was disappointing! Ah, well, can't win them all :-)

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    1. Yes Aarti, I agree! The cover is what made me want to read the book. But it isn't a total disappointment because I'm looking forward trying the author's other work.

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  9. Oh well, it sounded great, I will remember to borrow this.

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    1. Yes it's a good read Heidi =) I hope you get a chance to get your hands on a copy sometime.

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