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Fiction Suspense

The Jaguar's Children

A novel

by (author) John Vaillant

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2015
Suspense, Hispanic & Latino, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price

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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.

About the author

John Vaillant's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and National Geographic among other magazines. His books, The Tiger and The Golden Spruce, were international bestsellers. His most recent book, The Jaguar's Children is his first novel.

John Vaillant's profile page


  • Long-listed, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
  • Nominated, OLA Evergreen Award

Excerpt: The Jaguar's Children: A novel (by (author) John Vaillant)

Thu Apr 5 — 08:31 [text]
hello i am sorry to bother you but i need your assistance —
i am hector — cesars friend — its an emergency now for cesar — are you in el norte? i think we are also — arizona near nogales or sonoita — since yesterday we are in this truck with no one coming — we need water and a doctor — and a torch for cutting metal

Thu Apr 5 — 08:48
please text me annimac — we need help

Thu Apr 5 — 08:59
are you there annimac? it’s hector — please text me

Thu Apr 5 — 09:52
there was a storm — 1 bar only now — ARE YOU THERE???

Thu Apr 5 — 10:09
1 bar — something’s broken — maybe from the lightning — the
helicopter came again but doesn’t stop — how do they not see
us? nothing going now

Thu Apr 5 — 10:26 [soundfile]
Hello? I hope this works. Still one bar only but I’m recording now and when the signal comes back I will send it in a soundfile with all the details and the information from César. He is badly hurt, AnniMac — unconscious. I looked in his contacts for someone else, but the Mexican numbers won’t work now, and you are the only one with an American code. I hope you are his friend. I know him from school, but I haven’t seen him in many years. We’ve been together only a short time now to cross the border and already he gave me so many things. I have been telling him he’s not alone, that I sent you messages and you’re coming soon, that you will save us. I don’t know if he hears, but in this darkness how will he know to live without a voice — some sign of life? So I talk to him, and to you also. AnniMac, if you get these messages and come to look for us what you are looking for is a water truck — an old Dina. The tank is a big one — ten thousand liters and you will know it when you see an adobe-color truck that says on the side AGUA PARA USO HUMANO — Water for Human Use. But that doesn’t mean you can drink it. This one is different because someone has painted J and R so it says now JAGUAR PARA USO HUMANO. I saw this in the garage before we loaded and I didn’t know if it was graffiti or some kind of code, the secret language of coyotes, but then I was nervous to ask and later it was too late.

Editorial Reviews

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
Longlisted for the DUBLIN Literary Award
Finalist for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

“Fearless.” —Globe and Mail

“Extraordinary. . . . The horrors of a single passage over the border blossom into a human history of sorrow and suffering, all of it beginning with the thirst to be free.” —NPR

“Vaillant’s triumph. . . . This is what novels can do—illuminate shadowed lives, enable us to contemplate our own depths of kindness, challenge our beliefs about fate.” New York Times Book Review

“Applause for John Vaillant, please. He is masterful in creating literary suspense and methodically doling out insights.” —The Vancouver Sun

“A woozy heartbreaker of a novel.”The Boston Globe
“Urgent and compelling.” —The Walrus

“The novel unfurls at the pace of a geopolitical thriller, with the gravitas of allegory. . . . Vaillant's prose sears as he alights on NAFTA, civil and government corruption, and the tensions between past and present affecting Mexico's citizens.” —National Post

“A heart-wrenching literary thriller. . . . A complicated, generations-spanning tale . . . distressing yet often beautiful. . . . [It] will no doubt haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.” Calgary Herald
“Gripping. . . . Vaillant’s moving novel shows a deep understanding of how societies are changed by events they cannot control, and theimpact of those changes on the fate of individuals.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“John Vaillant is in the business of writing masterpieces. But this first novel will make his many followers fall over in shock. Vaillant sees the tragedy of human predation on the border for what it is—a real-world horror worthy of Stephen King. This book rushes at you relentless as a nightmare and doesn't let up until it kicks out the walls.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil's Highway, Into the Beautiful North and The Hummingbird's Daughter

Other titles by John Vaillant