MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Reader reviews and comments on American Dirt, plus links to write your own review.

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American Dirt

A Novel

by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins X
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 400 pages


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There are currently 46 reader reviews for American Dirt
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Karen B. (La Grange, KY)

Lives up to the hype
American Dirt is an intimate, authentic, compelling story of anguish and hope, of triumph over extraordinary trauma. A compelling and timely story of the often inconceivable hardships faced by asylum seekers, American Dirt is challenging without being preachy or moralistic. In the author's note, Cummins writes that she is "acutely aware that the people coming to our southern border are not one faceless brown mass but singular individuals, with stories and backgrounds and reasons for coming that are unique." She hoped "to present one of those unique personal stories -- a work of fiction -- as a way to honor the hundreds of thousands of stores we may never get to hear". That she did. This was an extraordinary book that lives up to the hype.
Antoinette B. (Charlottesville, VA)

American Dirt captivated me from the moment i read the first page. Literally I could not put the book down. There were so many twists and turns that were totally unpredictable. This is a profound and compelling story of a mother's love for her son and the obstacles she overcomes to keep them both alive. I could feel the character's angst and rode with them their roller coaster of extreme emotions and stupendous struggles. I was overwhelmed by the precariousness of what had been a solid family life. At night I would wonder if I could survive their circumstance. This book put in perspective how the cartels are destroying so many peoples lives and why they would rather die on the run than live in their country.
I love this book and would recommend it to everyone. I think it would be an excellent choice for book clubs as it would prove great discussions, I give this book 5 starts,but would give more if there were more to give.
It is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Power Reviewer
Lani S. (Narberth, PA)

A jewel embedded in stone
Blurbs have covered the stratosphere heralding the publication of this novel. I am here to tell you that these comments are not hyperbole; all of them are well deserved. Simplistically, it is the story of one woman's heart wrenching flight from Mexico with her young son to El Norte to escape the cartel and its spiteful drug lord. The horror of the first chapter alone is enough to put one over the edge. However, it is the prose and the dramatic tension throughout that propel the dynamism of the novel. Cummins shines a lens on our own biases lumping all migrants together, and helps us understand the harrowing ordeal that they encounter to try and escape persecution. How sobering to think that she must have written this a few years before the issues that confront us today were not staring us in the face painfully day after day after day. It is also the story of a mother's deep love for her child that tugged at my heart's drawstrings with an aching hurt. This is a fabulous book for book groups but you might want a lot of wine to get you through the discussion.
Beth M. (New York, NY)

An extraordinary immigrant story
I loved this book. It was compelling, frightening, tender and expansive. It really seated you in the experience of a Mexican mother and son on the run from a dangerous drug cartel lord. Their journey from Mexico to America is harrowing and unimaginable. Read this book and you will support every immigrant organization you can. This book is so special and written. You won't be able to put it down. When writers like Stephen King, John Grisham, Julia Alvarez and Tara Conklin highly recommend it, you must take notice. You will be better for the experience. Thank you BookBrowse.
Regiene P. (Crestview, FL)

Both sensitive and strong, a must-read!
También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

This has become one of my favorite books of all time since The Storyteller of Jodi Picoult. Cummins wants to tell a story of the victims more than the perpetrators and she successfully delivered it well. American Dirt narrates the plight of migrants from Mexico and Central America, about running away from the life they didn't know they will have to leave behind. Beautifully written with a crisp understanding of the cartels and the migrants' journey to el norte, the novel moves emotions with tales of horror, suffering, love, friendship, loss, and hope. 378 pages of solid skillful storytelling that depicts humanity in its core. Both sensitive and strong, this novel is a must-read!
Ilyse B. (Howell, NJ)

Highly Recommended
Every once in a while you go in to a book with no expectations whatsoever, and it blows you away. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is one of those books.
On the surface, it is a story about a mother and her child trying to escape a drug cartel in Mexico, but it is really so much more. It is a story about the families we are born into and the families we make. About a mother's love for her son and her willingness to do anything to keep him safe even though she is absolutely terrified. It's about the ability of the human spirit to endure no matter how horrific an experience they have lived through.

The book draws you in immediately-the first pages are heartbreaking yet you will race on to finish them. Every character is fully formed and the author clearly knows what she is writing about. Beautiful writing, believable characters and a story that is so timely in the world we currently live in. Highly recommended for any reader and it will certainly spark a lot of conversation if read in a book club. This book actually gave me a book hangover that is making it difficult for me to move on to another story. I can't recommend this book enough.
Randi H. (Bronx, NY)

American Dirt is the best book I've read this year. It tells the story of a mother and son as they flee drug cartel violence in their hometown of Acapulco. They head north, facing many dangers, and have to draw upon reserves of inner strength they did not know they had. Author Jeanine Cummins has done a wonderful job conveying the experiences of these refugees. The story is beautifully written and I have been unable to stop thinking about the characters since finishing the book a number of days ago. I think American Dirt would make a fantastic pick for book groups.
Nanette C. (Sarasota, FL)

A literary masterpiece everyone should read
Imagine yourself at a family party in Acapulco. The festivities are underway, and everyone is having a wonderful time. In a split second, gunfire breaks out, leaving 16 members of your family dead. You and your son are alive only because he had gone inside and you went in to check on him. You hear the gunmen -- cartel members you assume -- looking around for survivors. By pure luck and instinct, the two of you survive. But this is only the beginning of the story. And I mean literally. This is not a spoiler, but what happens within the first few pages of the book.
Now Lydia and Luca are on the run as the cartel searches for them to complete the task of wiping out the entire family. As the story progresses, we learn what transpired that led to these heinous murders. We learn of a surprising relationship Lydia, a bookstore owner, has with one of the cartel members. And, most importantly, we learn of Lydia and Luca's struggle to reach the border to freedom in the United States and the people they meet along the way.
Cummins' writing is beautiful and compelling. There are moments of abject terror, but there are also moments of joy. The way Lydia holds it together for her son reminded me a bit of the father in the movie "Life is Beautiful."
"American Dirt" is a novel you will never forget. It is an example of the way fiction can shine a light on an international crisis--immigration, in this case--by giving it a face. A must-read book.

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