*NOW A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK AT BEDTIME*
'Breathtaking... I haven't been so entirely consumed by a book for years' Telegraph
'I'll never stop thinking about it' Ann Patchett
FEAR KEEPS THEM RUNNING. HOPE KEEPS THEM ALIVE.
Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, AMERICAN DIRT is an unforgettable story of a mother and son's attempt to cross the US-Mexico border. Described as 'impossible to put down' (Saturday Review) and 'essential reading' (Tracy Chevalier), it is a story that will leave you utterly changed.
Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop.
Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist.
Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world.
Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left.
For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg.
For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train.
For him, she will find the strength to keep running.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In selecting American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins as her book club pick, Oprah called it “a novel not just for our times, but for this moment in our times.” This unforgettable story opens with mother and son Lydia and Luca hiding in a shower stall as a riot of bullets and screaming shatters their world. The book then follows the duo as they flee their hometown of Acapulco, Mexico, and attempt to reach the U.S. border before the attackers find them. Cummins succeeds in putting us in her migrant characters’ shoes, taking us on a 2,645-mile, moment-by-moment odyssey of hardship, terror, tragedy, resilience, and hope. She gives Lydia, Luca, and their travelling companions Rebeca and Soledad compelling and vivid backstories, making tangible everything that is left behind in the journey to el norte. Yes, this is an important, eye-opening read about one of the central news stories of our time, but it’s also an unbelievably gripping novel that makes you wish for more hours in your day.
With this devastating yet hopeful work, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) breathes life into the statistics of the thousands fleeing their homelands and seeking to cross the southern border of the United States. By mere chance, Lydia Quixano P rez and her eight-year-old son, Luca, survive the massacre of the rest of her family at her niece's quincea era by sicarios of the Los Jardineros cartel in Acapulco. Compounding the horror of the violence and loss is the fact that the cartel's leader is a man that Lydia unwittingly befriended in her bookstore. Lydia and Luca flee north to the only refuge that she can imagine: her uncle's family in Denver. North of Mexico City, all other sources of transportation become impossible, so mother and son must risk traveling atop La Bestia, the freight trains that are the only way to reach the border without being seen. They befriend two beautiful sisters Soledad, 15, who is "a living miracle of splendor," and Rebeca, 14 who have fled life-threatening circumstances in Honduras. As the quartet travel, they face terror on a constant basis, with danger possible from any encounter, but also compassion and occasionally even wonder. This extraordinary novel about unbreakable determination will move the reader to the core.
Customer ReviewsSee All
American. Worked in publishing for ten years before becoming a writer. Two previous novels and one memoir.
In Acapulco, journalist Sebastian, his wife Lydia and their 8-year-old son Luca are attending a family barbecue celebrating the fifteenth birthday (a big deal in Mexico) of one of Luca’s cousins when cartel gunmen burst in gunning for Sebastian, who is an anti-corruption campaigner. Everyone is slaughtered except Luca, who is in the toilet peeing, and his Mum, who manages to drag him into the shower stall to hide. Lydia has no faith in the police investigation because there’s so many corrupt coppers, and knows she and Luca are dead meat if they don’t escape to el norte (the US), which is debatable. Turns out Lydia has been having a platonic dalliance with the head honcho of the local cartel chapter, who is a regular patron of her bookshop. There follows an arduous pursuit narrative, but they make it across the border eventually nd start a new life.
Lydia and Luca are central and well drawn. The supporting cast of would be illegal migrants and facilitators is strong too.
Third person from Lydia’s POV
Clear and efficient with relevant flashbacks and limited time for indulgent reflection.
Narco-thriller/undocumented immigrant tale well told. Recommended by Oprah no less. However, the (white) author has been the subject of intense criticism/abuse for the heinous (to some) crime of ‘cultural appropriation,’ (New York Times, I’m looking at you). It is worth noting that Ms Cummins dated an undocumented Latino immigrant for five years before she married him, and probably has some insight into the problems she writes about. Lost Children Archive (2019) by Valeria Luiselli covers some of the same ground less effectively IMHO, but is more acceptable to the politically correct brigade because Ms Luiselli is Mexican. To the best of my knowledge, Yassmin Abdel-Magied hasn’t weighed in yet. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
A physical journey
I was so inthralled by this book I felt I was on the journey with the characters. Couldn’t put it down. Will read again.