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American Dirt

A Novel

by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins X
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
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  • Published:
    Jan 21, 2020, 400 pages


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Realistic Portrayal of a Border Crossing
American Dirt will be published January 21, 2020. It has already made my 2020 Best List as I was fortunate to be an early reader thanks to Amy Einhorn, and Flatiron Books.

Have you ever experienced a horrible trip or had a bad experience visiting another country, one that made you promise to kiss American soil and be happy to be on solid American ground if you made it home? We take our freedom and homeland for granted. Imagine living in village in Mexico. You are a bookstore owner, you live your life for this and also for your eight year-old son and your journalist husband. Today you are hosting the Quinceañera of your niece. This celebration of the coming of age, the ritual of the transformation of a 15 year-old girl to woman, is stopped short, never to happen but forever to be imprinted in your mind. Instead this festive, proud day turns into a blood-bath of horror when gunmen come out of nowhere and sixteen of your relatives are killed, including the girl, your mother and husband. Only you and your son remain and you know you must flee before you are found. It takes you time to realize there are few places you can hide as this is more than a cartel lesson; it is revenge and nothing will stop the search until you and your child are dead. You must make it out of the country as the Los Jardineros will hunt you down. Many readers might have visited Acapulco for some rest and relaxation at one of its many resorts but probably none of you have thought what it would be like to walk from this southern Pacific Coastal town over 2500 miles to Mexico's border with the US. You will walk each mile with Lydia, Luca and those they meet on this harrowing journey.

In 2001 I read Highwire Moon by Susan Straight. It has always been a book that haunted me, putting face and story to immigrants and undocumented persons in our country. American Dirt is another eye-opener of a novel with characters you will not soon forget. Haunting. I find myself looking for Lydia and Luca on our streets.

Stephen King “defies anyone to read the first seven pages of this book and not finish it”. I was hooked in less than that.

One final note. As a bookstore owner, Lydia mentions many of her favorite books. She refers to Love in the Time of Cholera by the late Gabriel García Márquez. Makes me yearn to read that book once again
Laureen S. (Aurora, IL)

One of those books that stays with you
Even weeks after reading this book, I find myself thinking about it. It is such a raw and honest portrayal of immigration and the lengths people will go to for their survival and the survival of the ones they love. Cummins' writing is beautiful with wonderful character development. It should be required reading in high schools/colleges and I encourage everyone to read this powerful book.
Power Reviewer
Becky H

You need to read this book
This is an important book. Anyone who thinks all illegal aliens are criminals should read this book. It is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It will grab you at the first page and not let go until the last.

Sabastian is a journalist who writes an expose of a drug boss. His family suffers because of it. His wife and 8 year old son flee to el norte to escape the retaliation. This is the story of their journey to el norte from Acapulco. Along the way they meet kindness and terror, friends and enemies, hunger and thirst, murderers and robbers, and worse.
Read this book.
5 of 5 stars
Toni Brabender

Recommend to every reader
This is a story for our time- a chronicle of the migrant's plight. So often the average person sees immigration through eyes of politicians. Often failing to perceive the migrants as individuals with individual hopes, dreams and a story to tell. We lose the sense of humanity in it all. Ms. Cummins brings several of these stories to the light. It is a tale of devastating loss and yet unmitigated hope for a child. It is tale of kindness and love while mired in a sea of evil, loss and depravity. It is a book that needed to be written of these times in which we live. It is book that we all need to read lest we lose our compassion and very humanity. Although it is a work of fiction, these characters will remain with reader long past the closing of the last page.
Lizzie B

Best book I have read in quite a while
Every once in a while a book comes along that will blow me away. It will blow away all preconceived notions. It will blow away all the hype that surrounds it. It will be a book that stays with me for the rest of my life. It will be a book that makes me rearrange not only my top 10 list but also my way of thinking.

This is by far the best book I have read in several years. There are no words to explain how much this book affected me. I will try to make you understand. I was sitting in a bar sipping on a glass of wine while reading this book. There was a point where I had tears in my eyes. Lydia and Luca were having a struggle and someone asked me if I was ok. I looked up at them with tears in my eyes and could not convey how in the moment I was. I was with these 2 characters as they were wondering where the next meal was coming from, when their feet hurt so much from walking, when they hadn't even had a moment to grieve their absolute loss of everything they knew. I couldn't just tell this person, I was fine, because I wasn't. And I couldn't tell this person that it was ok, I was just reading a book, because I wasn't JUST reading a book. I was living this book.

When I closed this book for the last time, I knew I had been changed. I know that sounds crazy, but I truly feel like I am a lucky person that I had the chance to read this book. I feel blessed that I got to live this story. I know that I will tell every single person I know that reads, about this book and how much it has meant to me.

This book comes out in January. I beg you to preorder now, read this book, live with Lydia and Luca, escape with them, feel their anguish, want to take care of Rachel and Soleidad, and I can't even speak of Beto right now. Live this book, not just read it, live it, and then tell everyone you know. I am glad that this story has been told. I am glad that I read this book. I feel like I am changed for the better, having read it.

Thank you so much to the publishers and the author for bringing this book to reader and for letting me be one of the first to get my hands on it and review it. My sincere gratitude is given.
Shirley F. (The Villages, FL)

Migrant reality
I read the first chapter of this book and had to put it down - I didn't care to read about the rise of the drug cartels in Mexico, the violence that they produce, and the poor downtrodden Mexicans who are making their way to the US. Then I read the blurbs on the back of the book and thought that there must be more to this book than I am anticipating.

This book pulled together a story of maternal love, self preservation, and hope in a compelling narrative with multifaceted characters who found the courage and companionship to survive and unimaginable journey. The author defines these migrants as having the dreams of living in a faraway country that doesn't want them - the same as most migrants throughout time. I'm sure we all have looked at the problems at our southern border with some resistance to allowing them to enter our country.

My grandparents who came from Europe at the turn of the last century, were not wealthy, they were unskilled, they didn't speak English, but they too came to pursue a dream of a better Lydia and Luca.

The author puts a face to the sea of humanity crossing into the US, but she also puts heart and soul into the characters...and each of them carries some story of suffering. Yes, they have problems, yes, they have anguish, and yes there is some violence, but the story also has many heartwarming, and enlightening moments and is written so that you are carried along the journey with the characters.
I highly recommend this book for a discussion group. I guarantee that you will never look at the migrant problem the same again.

Thank you BookBrowse and Flatiron Books for an ARC of American Dirt. It has changed me forever.
Power Reviewer
Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)

Haunting, mesmerizing, unforgettable!
I am so very touched by American Dirt, a richly told timely and relevant contemporary story.

Cummings clear-eyed storytelling, compelling narrative and characterizations along with being expertly plotted had my heart racing in the many tense situations. While there are many situations where human darkness could reign, this is balanced by the goodness of within many others.

Like many tough issues that can happen in life I appreciated that this story was told with grace and hope.

A stunning story that presents its point without force but will leave each reader to examine their own humanity.
Elizabeth S. (East Hartford, CT)

Stunning Realism
It's been easy for me to see the refugees at the southern border of the United States as one sea of humanity. Cummins skillfully takes the reader into the heart and life of one Mexican woman fleeing gang violence in Acapulco, trying to get her son to distant family in Denver. As we travel with her on buses, on top of trains, and on foot through the treacherous route north, we experience first hand the desperation that leads people to become refugees. I will continue to see the face of Lydia, the mother, superimposed on any news photos of refugees I see in the future. Each person has a story, and Cummins gives us one stunning example in her novel.

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