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.