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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Jaguar's Children: A Novel

One book that came very highly recommended last year at BEA was John Vaillant's The Jaguar's Children, and I took it upon myself over the holidays to pick it up.

A man employs coyotes to get him across the border after running into trouble. His companion urges him to take the vehicle rather than walk--it will be safer, he says. This is how Hector, an Oaxaca native, finds himself in the belly of a water tank with no way out. The truck has stalled and the coyotes have abandoned the whole lot of them. As the days pass, Hector records his story on his companion's phone in hopes that it will one day reach the outside world. As his life slips away, Hector speaks to the only living thing he has--a phone.

How heartbreaking was the story? Well, you should probably read it for yourself to find out. I can't even begin to imagine the desperation of the situation, being trapped in a tank with no way out with people you don't know and dwindling liquid resources. Even though Hector attempts to tastefully express the circumstances, I had to stop trying to imagine the setting as it caused me feel queasy. How Hector had the wherewithal to keep Caesar, his friend, alive as well as to keep talking to AnnieMac, someone that Caesar has listed in his phone that Hector does not know yet hopes will save him, is beyond me. How would I handle my sanity in the situation? I pray I will never know.

But really, it was hard not to immediately latch onto Hector as a truthful protagonist. He was heartfelt, honest, and progressively desperate as the book goes on. He is the heart and soul of this book, which is no surprise seeing as how it's his story. That being said, it's a testament to Vaillant's characterization of a young man who is throes of desperation yet has such a story to tell.

I was so happy to pick this book up over my holiday break. While it is certainly no upper, it is a piece of narrative fiction that will grab you and keep your reading until the end. I read this book in one sitting, and at 280 pages that's not a small feat. It was because Hector was such a gripping character, and after a while I became desperate with him to get out of the tanker in which he was trapped. I won't give away the ending, but the lead up is a nailbiter. Very much worth your cold winter reading.

For purchase below.

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