cover image The Jaguar’s Children

The Jaguar’s Children

John Vaillant. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-544-31549-5

Following his nonfiction works The Golden Spruce and The Tiger, Vaillant delivers a dramatic, tense novel that begins in the claustrophobic confines of a water truck, in which 15 would-be immigrants to the U.S. are trapped; among them are Hector María de la Soledad Lázaro Gonzalez and his friend Cesar Ramírez Santiago. When the vehicle lurches and suddenly stops, it knocks Cesar unconscious, leaving Hector to search for a cellphone signal to send out an SOS. A series of text messages and sound files form the narrative as Hector tries to contact AnniMac, the only contact in Cesar’s phone with a U.S. number. The author doesn’t let the reader get trapped alongside the duo, however, instead including a series of flashbacks in which Hector relates stories from his family history and the events that led him to join Cesar in fleeing Mexico. Taking on illegal immigration and human trafficking, as well as the misdeeds of multinational corporations, the book is sometimes didactic, although the importance of its themes, which closely mirror life, cannot be doubted. (Jan.)