This attention grabbing story is one of the most anticipated novels of 2020. Since its release, every day is judgement day for American Dirt. Media outlets are talking about this one, including Oprah. As her latest Book Club pick, Oprah, moved by the unforgettable book, encouraged her audience to read it. Opening a can of worms with the media, both naysayers and supporters are speaking out about the new novel. Barnes & Noble picked it to be the next book club book and NPR and the LA Times gave it positive reviews. The NYTimes wasn’t so kind. As a white United States citizen, is author Jeanine Cummins qualified to give voice to a migrant? Does she have the right to speak about a country that is not hers? Somehow the controversy makes people all the more interested in reading and developing their own opinion, and I really hope they do.
I, for sure, am on team Oprah for this one and look forward to discussing it with my book group! For me, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a realistic account of a Mexican mother and son who embark on a grief and fear driven journey to get out of the country they adore due to grave danger. Beautifully written about love and hope, this palpitation inducing story drew me in right from the get go and I could not put it down.
Lydia’s husband, Sebastian, a journalist in Acapulco, is a target of the Mexican Cartel. During a violent attack at a quincinera celebration, Sebastian, along with the rest of the family, is tragically murdered. Only the now widow, Lydia, and their young son, Lucas, miraculously survive as they eluded the violent attack while hiding in the bathroom. Lydia fears the Cartel has infiltrated the Police and will be coming back for them to finish the job, so she and Lucas quickly leave the bloodbath that has stolen all of their loved ones, and begin their difficult journey to get out of Mexico and escape danger.
Jeanine Cummins takes us on an emotional ride; vigorous and endless travel on busses, and vans, frightening road blocks, suspicious fellow travelers and moving freight trains, just to get to a coyote who may be able to assist with crossing the border. The physical and mental strain of the escape paired with the overwhelming sorrow, devastation and loss from the massacre and the never ending fear of being followed kept me engaged and glued to the pages.
Relationships between the characters are heartfelt and the struggle for survival feels real and desperate. The love of family, the desire for connection and the value of friendships, are expressed when Cummins tells this story of a strong woman and her son in a country that is crumbling around them. I cried for Lydia and her son, I cried for Mexico and I cried for migrants trying to leave their country to pursue safety and a better life.
The border crisis is tragic and everyone stuck there has a story. I highly recommend reading American Dirt.
If you enjoy American Dirt, you might enjoy Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran.
About the Author:
Jeanine Cummins is the author of four books: the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, and the novels The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.
Sounds like an ideal book club book. There seems to be so much to discuss about it – so many different opinions…
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