The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant
A Rapid Review
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | January 2015
Format: Hardcover | 288 pages | Rating: 3½ stars
… a gripping survival story of a young man trapped, perhaps fatally, during a border crossing.
Héctor 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.
The entire story is related through Héctor’s point of view. Using his phone, he records sound and text files chronicling the time in the tanker. He spends much of it reflecting back on his life, his family, and his reasons for undertaking this journey.
While the book started out strong, with the opening pages finding everyone already trapped in the tanker for over a day and conditions fast deteriorating, it began to slow down and, at times, drag, as we spent more time on the story of Héctor’s life, his family, and his ancestors in Oaxaca.
The part I found the most compelling and riveting – the survival story itself – was not the primary focus. Other than Héctor’s friend, César, who is with him in the tanker, we learn little about the other people trapped in there. César’s story about a corporate plot to spread GMO seeds with a terminator gene into the wild was fascinating, but only briefly explained towards the end.
This was a compelling plot that could be ripped from the headlines as so many people are willing to risk their lives to cross the border. I would have liked to have heard their stories. And in the end, much is left to our imagination, and for that, the story felt a little incomplete.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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