The Jaguar's Children

The Jaguar's Children

Book - 2015
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An Indie Next pick

"Terrifying . . . Though the geography of the story is that of Cormac McCarthy, the plot shares more territory with Edgar Allan Poe . . . An end that is improbable, dripping with irony, and entirely satisfying." -- Outside

"Vaillant writes with power and emotion, affection and respect . . . An eloquent literary dissection of the divide between the United States and Mexico." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

From the best-selling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce , this debut novel is a gripping survival story of a young man trapped, perhaps fatally, during a border crossing.

Hector is trapped. The water truck, sealed to hide its human cargo, has broken down. The coyotes have taken all the passengers' money for a mechanic and have not returned. Those left behind have no choice but to wait.

Hector finds a name in his friend Cesar's phone. AnniMac. A name with an American number. He must reach her, both for rescue and to pass along the message Cesar has come so far to deliver. But are his messages going through?

Over four days, as water and food run low, Hector tells how he came to this desperate place. His story takes us from Oaxaca -- its rich culture, its rapid change -- to the dangers of the border. It exposes the tangled ties between Mexico and El Norte -- land of promise and opportunity, homewrecker and unreliable friend. And it reminds us of the power of storytelling and the power of hope, as Hector fights to ensure his message makes it out of the truck and into the world.

Both an outstanding suspense novel and an arresting window into the relationship between two great cultures, The Jaguar's Children shows how deeply interconnected all of us, always, are.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
ISBN: 9780544315495
Characteristics: 280 pages ; 24 cm
Call Number: VAILLANT, J


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Jul 27, 2019

I would classify this book as a literary thriller. Hector and his friend set out to escape certain realities of their life in a pueblo in Mexico and trust their fates to a coyote. Alas! They are trapped in a water tank and are basically left to die. Hector narrates the story of his life including the history and culture of his people through the reminiscences of his beloved grandfather and also fuses with the present as he tells the story of Cesar. I read the book with bated breath to find out if Hector does survive; had to wait till the very last line as he describes the approach of death. A must read in the present climate of immigration.

Dec 06, 2018

Oh my! What a grim tale of desperation as the protagonist and his friend are sealed with others in a water truck to cross into the USA, then abandoned by the smugglers. I learned a great deal about Mexican history, beliefs, culture, hardships and exploitation as Vaillant wove together fiction and facts. Beautifully written despite brutal events. As a side note, I felt left out that there was a liberal dose of Spanish without translation. A very timely book about the understory of illegal immigration.
A favourite quote: "…graffiti …the story of our people and of the gods they serve and the battles they must fight….They try to clean it up and paint it over, but the story keeps bleeding through."(p.134)

Dec 11, 2017

The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant is a literary thriller whose intense story grabs the reader immediately. Hector, a young Mexican is fleeing his homeland in the hope of a better life in America. He and his friend Cesar have paid the smugglers or “coyotes” for space inside a sealed water tanker truck. Sitting in the damp, pitch black truck is terrible, but they console themselves that it will only be for a few hours. But something goes terribly wrong and the people in the truck are abandoned in the desert, totally sealed in the dark truck and left to die.

This book brings the voice of a dying boy, trapped in an unbearable situation to life. These people are trying to come north in the hope for a future as there is no future where they originated. What they have found: suffocation, intense thirst, unbearable high temperatures during the day and frigid conditions at night pushes any moral complexity the reader may have about the issue of illegal immigrants aside. These are fellow humans suffering a terrible fate. What makes this novel all the more terrifying is that it is based on a true story of a situation much like this one that occured outside Victoria, Texas in 2003. A difficult read, but one that is very current with the conditions that exist in the world today.

Jul 30, 2015

A compelling, riveting read packed with social commentary. Like the narrator himself, readers won't know how (or if) Hector's plight is resolved until the very end.

Jul 20, 2015

Easy to read popular fiction. The author spent one year living in Oaxaca. The story is contrived, melodramatic, and dominated by male characters. (I have been visiting Oaxaca for 30 years and enjoyed reading about some of the place names, but repeat visitors will gain little or no insight from this novel.)

patcumming Jun 19, 2015

A suspenseful and harrowing story that highlights the plight of Mexican migrants. Well told but the political statements overshadow the story at times.

Feb 02, 2015

A riveting read. As Hector waits for a rescue he reflects on his life in Mexico, what brought him to this point and shares all the wisdom and history his beloved grandfather imparted to him. Will he be saved or not - we don't know until the story's end. A more fictionalized style than his last book. Enjoyed this book.


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Jun 25, 2015

All my life it was my abuelo who danced the jaguar to the music of the flute and drum through the smoke of copal burning, but when I was young I didn't know it was him, only that you never found the two of them together. No one saw him put it on - not the mask he carved himself or the suit of spots Abuela made. Some said he got the paint from the men who made the highway - black and yellow for the skin, red and white for the tongue and teeth, his own hair for the whiskers. I still don't know where he found the eyes and he could never tell. When I was older I understood that they were made of mirror glass and when he came close - close enough to bite - it wasn't only his eyes staring at you but your eyes also. For a moment you were the jaguar too.


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