cover image Prayers for the Stolen

Prayers for the Stolen

Jennifer Clement. Random/Hogarth, $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8041-3878-9

The first novel from the American-born but Mexico-based Clement, president of PEN Mexico, to be published in the U.S. is an expose of the hideously dangerous lives girls lead in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Despite its social significance, the book doesn’t read like homework; Clement is more a poet than a documentarian, and the girls and women of the village she chronicles are complex individuals. Ladydi, named after Princess Diana, spends her childhood dressed as a boy, as do all the girls from her village, since they will otherwise be kidnapped and forced into prostitution or drug smuggling. Most of the men from Ladydi’s village left a long time ago. The community is shocked when one kidnapped girl—the transcendently beautiful, now near-catatonic Paula—manages to return. Ladydi, thinking to save herself from Paula’s fate, decides to accept an offer of work from Mike, her best friend Maria’s brother, as a nanny in Acapulco, where, as he tells her, “people are rich, rich, rich.” However, Ladydi soon discovers that in a corrupt system, any apparent opportunity comes with hidden traps. Clement treats the brutal material honestly but not sensationally, conveying the harshest moments secondhand rather than directly, and ultimately allows Ladydi to continue to hope. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Feb.)