You've read the newspaper stories, seen accounts and shows on the news and television - the desperate attempts of those from other countries attempting to cross the border into the United States - illegally. John Vaillant's new book (and his first work of fiction), The Jaguar's Children, starts with that as the premise, but then goes in a direction I hadn't expected.
Hector, his friend Cesar and some others leave Mexico sealed into the tank of a water truck. But when the truck breaks down, the 'coyotes' promise they'll return soon with a mechanic and leave the group sealed inside.....
Hector finds an American number on Cesar's phone and texts it, but there is no reply. When the signal dies, he instead begins to record a series of messages - perhaps to send if the signal comes back.....or if the coyotes don't return, someone will know their story.
Oh boy, it was disturbing to imagine being trapped in a metal tank, somewhere in the sun, with limited food and water - and a load of desperate people. And this is what I thought Vaillant's story would be about - but it was so much more.
Vaillant takes the novel beyond the confines of the tanker. The Jaguar's Children is amazing storytelling on so many levels - the nail biting tension of those trapped in the truck, the story of the Hector's life and his people - both immediate and on a larger scale as the vibrant history and legacy of the Zapotec are woven into his recordings. There's much food for thought as GMOs also figure into another plot thread.
It's impossible to read this book without examining and questioning the relationship between cultures, countries and politics. The Jaguar's Children is all the more compelling and intimate told in Hector's single narrative.
And throughout it all, the reader wonders if they will be rescued......A compelling, thought provoking, richly written read. Recommended. Read an excerpt of The Jaguar's Children. You can find John Vaillant on Facebook and on Twitter.