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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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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.
Carolyn L. (Vero Beach, FL)

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Jeanine Cummins was not an author previously read by this reviewer; however, once having finished this enlightening novel, it's a sure bet that more of her work will be enjoyed
American Dirt starts off like the explosives that the main characters, mother and son, Luca and Lydia endure in page one A party is being held at Lydia's parents' house when a drug cartel descends upon the party with firing AK-47's. Luca, Lydia's seven year old son is in the bathroom washing his hands when a bullet just misses him. The next thing he knows his mother Lydia, burst through the door and knocks him down landing on top of him in a five foot walled shower.
The two are not discovered but their entire family are dead, sixteen in all, including husband-father Sebastian. This is the start of a journey whereby both mother and son who are used to middle class culture become part of the migrant culture and population as they make their way from Acapulco, Mexico heading to Estados Unidos.

Cummins description techniques are amazing. The reader becomes part of the journey experiencing the horrors, of traveling while being chased by the Cartel plus the humiliation of seeking food and information from strangers. The author reminds the reader that the protagonists are Mexican by often writing her character's words in Spanish, but then translated to English. Cummins has chosen third person omniscience as the point of view and switches back and forth through most of the novel from mother to son. We also learn the thoughts of the two sisters Soledad and Rebeca who show them how to board a moving train, and 10 year old Beto who saves the day by providing much needed money to Lydia who has been robbed. These characters are introduced to the reader just as she is becoming somewhat bored with the monotony of the odyssey.

The book has several themes — Mother's Love — Family — The cost not only monetarily but emotionally of living in Mexico where the Cartels with all their viciousness are becoming more and more the government of Mexico.
This writer's eyes were opened when she realized the hardships and what is to be disappointing outcome for the migrants. A new found respect is realized by the reader. I highly recommend American Dirt.
Florence H. (Laguna Woods, CA)

American Dirt
This is a riveting,compassionate, eye-opening account of immigrants on their journey to the U.S. These fictional people, coming from various countries in Central America,become very real and put faces on the many statistics we have read about immigrants. Each is coming north for different reasons, but as the horrors of their pilgrimage are faced, it becomes obvious that not one of them chooses this route to "el Norte" without being desperate. In many instances the evil they encounter is tempered with goodness by people encountered who have the courage to help.
Victoria C. (Riva, MD)

A different look at the migrant story.
Thank you to Flatiron Books and Bookbrowse for giving me the chance to read this upcoming novel. And thanks to Linda as well! After reading an excerpt, I worked so hard to obtain an ARC of this title, I eventually ended up with two!

This is a fantastic slant on the immigration story and of course, very timely. The author's choice to center the story around a middle class mother and son, with a reporter husband, is what made it so compelling to me. I felt that I could really relate to them more than some of the other immigration tales I've read recently. Their frightening and adventurous journey will keep you turning pages late into the night, rooting them on at each step.

But it was the end of the story, including the author's afterword that brought tears to my eyes. A reminder of our shared humanity and that people and their individual stories cannot be summed up in soundbites. I highly recommend this to all.
Pau J. (Bath, ME)

Stunning depiction of migrants voyage
I was simply stunned with this book; it is fantastic. It is a deep story of a mother and her child and what necessitated them to leave home. I felt like I was with them on their trip, feeling terrified, tired, and afraid. I was getting to the end of the book, and almost afraid to finish it ... I really did not want any of these people to go through any more pain. The story is told with a great deal of detail that allows you to immerse yourself in the story. The author's note was very helpful in expanding on how and why she wrote this novel. Honestly, I would give this 10 stars. I think it is one of the best books I have read this year.

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