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Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement Expected publication: February 11th 2014 by Hogarth
Having access to pre-release books for review, I often find myself in the untenable position of having to force myself through tortuous, mediocre, crudely written books. There's a lot of appallingly bad writing out there, cleverly disguised by misleading cover art; their publication based largely on overused cliches. I feel resentful for the time I spend choking down uninspired, poorly researched titles, when there are authors who invest themselves, literally for years, in the development of a well-written book. Jennifer Clement;s new title, Prayers for the Stolen, falls into the second category of higher achievement.

Set in a small, rural mountain village in the state of Guerrero comprised of solely of women, who, Amazon-like in their matriarchy, exist in the almost absolute absence of males, survival is both grueling and violent. This is not the Mexican paradise lavishly depicted in glossy tourist brochures, but a place of hardship and brutality. Following each birth, daughters are celebrated and mourned simultaneously as each newborn declared a son, in the hopes that they will be protected against trafficking by drug lords. Their femininity striped of them at birth, girls' gender is none-the-less apparent in the unified stance the all-female community takes. Its women walk in both unilateral solidarity and a wary suspicion of one another, while maintaining a warm, albeit aloof, protectiveness. 

Written with well-researched thoroughness, Prayers for the Stolen is savage in its detail. Its primitive, inhospitable landscape reinforces the blistering reality of the brutal, cut-throat oppression of day-to-day survival in the face of their ruthless jungle home. The constant natural dangers of iguanas, snakes, and scorpions combined with the lack of access to medical care and the airborne spraying of toxic herbicides maintain only a minor threat in the shadow of a greater evil; the incontemplatively corrupt Mexican drug lords. 

I cannot give this title enough stars. If you buy one book this year, put Prayers for the Stolen at the top of your list, and plan on this gripping novel of female courage consuming your every thought well beyond its last pages.

Jennifer Clement studied English Literature and Anthropology at New York University and also studied French literature in Paris, France. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

Clement is the author of the cult classic memoir Widow Basquiat (on the painter Jean Michel Basquiat) and two novels: A True Story Based on Lies, which was a finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction, and The Poison That Fascinates.
She is also the author of several books of poetry: The Next Stranger (with an introduction by W.S. Merwin); Newton's Sailor; Lady of the Broom and Jennifer Clement: New and Selected Poems. Her prize-winning story A Salamander-Child is published as an art book with work by the Mexican painter Gustavo Monroy.

Jennifer Clement was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Fellowship for Literature 2012. She is also the recipient of the UK's Canongate Prize. In 2007, she received a MacDowell Fellowship and the MacDowell Colony named her the Robert and Stephanie Olmsted Fellow for 2007-08. Clement is a member of Mexico's prestigious "Sistema Nacional de Creadores."

Jennifer Clement's new novel Prayers for the Stolen was awarded the NEA Fellowship in Literature 2012 and will be published by Hogarth (USA and UK) in February 2014. 

(from her Goodreads Bio  at

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