By Hywel Davies
Fernie Memorial Library was proud to present its second last event before closing its winter writer’s series for the season. A beautiful layout of fine cheese and beverages was a delightful touch of sophistication to what was a splendid night of music, culture and a dignified reflection on how important art is to this community. Over one hundred eager patrons came to witness non-fiction writer and now novelist John Vaillant discussing his latest book, The Jaguar’s Children.
Cranbook based alternative country trio Joshua Burning made an appearance and set the mood for the evening. The sun setting over the Lizard Range made for a perfect backdrop for this trio, playing a set comprised of cover songs and homemade originals that made for a laid back environment.
A humbled Vaillant took to the podium, overwhelmed by his welcome to Fernie. This being his first official step into the world of fiction, The Jaguar’s Children is a fascinating tale describing the journey of Mexican farmers trying to smuggle themselves across the U.S. border. An issue that still comes under controversy, Vaillant’s account of these characters feels all the more real. Being the first novel in Vaillant’s repertoire, the book reads as if these events have indeed taken place.
The story goes deeper into the traditions, beliefs culture of these extraordinary people, to which little is known. Vaillant’s first hand experience with these cultures was eye opening. Having lived and breathed the traditional Mexican way of life, he not only gives us the reader a better perspective on a post-conquistador society, but he also highlights the real human struggles these people face in a modernised 21st century world.
Vaillant spoke with humility about these people, never being pretentious. The novel feels all too real for it to be fiction, highlighting the human spirit in a way that was superbly presented. It’s such a feast for the mind that by the end of the book your brain will be craving for more.