Green Eggs and Spam

Article by brooke

When I was in preschool, I was promised green eggs and ham. Our class had just read Dr. Seuss’s classic, and I couldn’t wait to get my little paws on some green victuals. We lined up at a long table, and the teachers set down Styrofoam plates heaped with scrambled eggs and little bits of Spam splotched with green food dye. My disappointment was crushing.

This column will attempt to right that wrong. Every time I read a delectable description of food, I wish I had the ability to reach into the pages and pull out that delicious pie or that steaming pot of coffee. In this column, I will attempt to approximate that as closely as the laws of physics will allow. Each column will feature a fantastic book and a restaurant, bar, food truck, or gas station snack that complements that book. I hope this column makes you hungry.

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Prayers for the Stolen By Jennifer Clement Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804138802
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Hogarth - November 4th, 2014

The Book:
Think Barbara Kingsolver meets Sandra Cisneros with a pinch of Breaking Bad. Jennifer Clement’s PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN has lots of hot desert scenery, a bunch of drugs and some very bad men.

Meet LadyDi Garcia Martinez, named after Princess Diana by her alcoholic, gun-toting, TV-loving mother. LadyDi lives with her mother in Guerrero, Mexico where drug lords steal girls right out of their living rooms in the middle of the afternoon.

Now, I hear what you’re about to say. Why is modern fiction so depressing? THE ROAD, anyone? And I hate to say it, but Marilynne Robinson is not always a barrel of laughs. But I am here to tell you that a book about drugs, kidnappings, cheating husbands and a grandma who gets killed crossing the road to buy milk is hilarious.

PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN gets off to a rollicking start as LadyDi shares her first memory: her mother saying, “Now we make you ugly,” and breathing beer breath all over her. In LadyDi’s world a pretty girl is a liability. You might as well have a big red target on your chest that says Shoot Me. Various methods are employed to uglify the ladies, but taking a yellow or brown marker to the teeth was pretty standard. Hope Crayola was not lying when they claimed their products to be Non-Toxic.

I haven’t read a book with this much fantastic world-building since Karen Russell’s SWAMPLANDIA! about a clan of alligator wrestlers in the Florida Everglades. Clements has created a world where the houses have dirt floors and big TV’s and the women refrigerate their pillows during the day so they are cool by bedtime. There is only one place where there is cell-service so it is always choked with women waving their phones in the air, hoping to hear from their husbands and sons. “Some sat there for days that became weeks, months and years, and their cellphones never rang.”

The women of Guerrero are funny, resourceful and resilient. When one of LadyDi’s friends runs away with her mother to escape Guerrero, LadyDi and her own mother explore the abandoned house. The TV was still on, as though the residents had just stepped out. As they are leaving, LadyDi notices that her mother has taken a pair of flip-flops, a bag of chips and a bottle of tequila with her.

The hardy heroines and poetic language make PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN an unforgettable read. You’ll almost wish you could visit Guerrero yourself, provided you could get a guarantee that no one would shoot you and/or kidnap you while you sight-seeing.

The Meal: Beef Fajitas at Ninfa’s on Navigation
Houston is filled with great Mexican food. Sure, I could send you to a greasy little taqueria you’ve never heard of with the best tacos in the world but, frankly, I’m not cool enough to know where that is. So I’m going to send you to Mama Ninfa. But you have to go to the original Ninfa’s on Navigation. What better way to pay tribute to the ladies of Guerrero than by knocking back a few cold ones and stuffing your face with sizzling fajitas? Mama Ninfa herself was a hard-working widow who turned her taco stand into a bona fide Houston institution.

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