Thursday, 1 January 2015

Review: The Jaguar's Children by John Vaillant

From the #1 bestselling, award-winning author of The Golden Spruce and The Tiger: a rich, gripping literary thriller in the spirit of The Constant Gardener that showcases the narrative power for which John Vaillant is internationally acclaimed.
          Hector, a young Zapotec fleeing Mexico for a better life in the US with his friend Cesar, a biotech researcher, pays to be smuggled across the border by unscrupulous "coyotes," concealed in the tightly sealed, empty tank of a water truck packed with illegal migrants. Abandoned by the smugglers in the desert, they are left to die, their only lifeline Cesar's phone. When Cesar slips into unconsciousness, Hector reaches out to the one name with an American code--AnniMac--that becomes his lifeline to the world as he reveals what has brought him to this place, taking us back to an older Mexico; to the lives of his Zapotec grandparents and the ancient, mythic traditions, to the mystery behind the jaguar icon left to him by a mysterious archeologist, and the power of the corn myth. As legends fuse with the terrifying present, the dangers Cesar is fleeing become grippingly apparent: his research was threatening to expose the country's largest manufacturer of genetically modified corn, set to impose economic and cultural genocide on the native population. Finding the courage to survive is critical, even as hope dwindles.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: January 6th 2015 by Knopf Canada 

Kristine's Thoughts:

I won an advanced readers copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is January 6, 2015.

This story starts out really strong. It is told through a bunch of text messages and sound files as Hector tells the story of how he and others ended up stuck inside a water truck. I was dying to know if they would get rescued and what their fate would be.

As the story unfolds, Hector digs deep into his past and the past of his ancestors to paint a larger picture of his culture and where he came from. Having visited different parts of Mexico on numerous occasions I found this quite interesting. I enjoyed learning about the way his family lived and all of the myths and legends they believed in.

When I was about 3/4 of the way through the book I did find that it started to lose a little steam and the original excitement that I had for it started to dwindle. At this point I was wanting to read more about Hector's current situation and a little less about his past. I was guilty of skimming a page or two at this point.

This book is not for everyone. It is sometimes tragic and devastating and there isn't a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. At times the story moves slowly and it is a little frustrating. If you can power through all these things there is a unique and somewhat powerful story that is unlike any I have read in a long time.

 About the Author
John Vaillant is a non-fiction author and journalist who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has lived in Vancouver for the past thirteen years.

John Vaillant is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Outside, among others. His first book, The Golden Spruce (Norton, 2005), was a bestseller and won several awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction (Canada).  

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