Cover image for American dirt : a novel
Title:
American dirt : a novel
ISBN:
9781250209764

9781250754080
Edition:
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
386 pages : maps ; 25 cm.
General Note:
Maps on endpapers.
Summary:
Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while cracks are beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, reasonably comfortable. Even though she knows they'll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy, two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia's husband's tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence.
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Summary

Summary

#1 New York Times Bestseller
OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK

" Extraordinary ."
-- Stephen King

"This book is not simply the great American novel; it's the great novel of las Americas . It's the great world novel! This is the international story of our times. Masterful."
--Sandra Cisneros

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams .

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they'll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy--two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia's husband's tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia --trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier's reach doesn't extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte , Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times" and "a new American classic," Jeanine Cummins's American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.


Author Notes

Jeanine Cummins is the author of the novels The Outside Boy and The Crooked Branch and the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven . She lives in New York with her husband and two children.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 Pérez and her eight-year-old son, Luca, survive the massacre of the rest of her family at her niece's quinceañera 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. (Jan.)


Booklist Review

Lydia Perez's life is not extraordinary; she is a bookstore owner with a husband and eight-year-old son, Luca, in Acapulco. When cartel jefe Javier Fuentes has her entire extended family killed while Lydia and Luca are fortuitously hiding in a bathroom, Lydia realizes they must leave Mexico immediately or be killed when Javier finds out she is still alive. Luca, confused but trusting in his mother, embarks with her on an odyssey to the north, joining other migrants trying to make it to the U.S. border. What they see along the way will bring readers both heartbreak and hope, pain and promise. While Cummins alternates points of view, Luca's voice in particular sings with innocent optimism in the face of a series of near misses. The journey towards the prospect of safety is not only that of Luca and Lydia but of many other migrants, and complex secondary characters serve as both warnings and signs of possibility. Beautiful, straightforward language drives home the point that migration to safer places is not a political issue but a human one. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a story line sure to be much discussed this election year plus a film in the works American Dirt may be the don't-miss book of 2020.--Tracy Babiasz Copyright 2019 Booklist


Guardian Review

At the opening of Jeanine Cummins's devastating and timely novel, bookshop owner Lydia and her eight-year-old son, Luca, are the only survivors of a targeted massacre by the Mexican cartel that dominates and terrorises their home town of Acapulco. Sixteen of their relatives have been shot at a family barbecue, including Lydia's husband and Luca's father, a journalist who had been investigating and reporting on the drug traffickers. What follows is the story of a mother's desperate attempts to keep her son alive, away from the cartel whose influence stretches across Mexico and from whom she knows they will never be safe. It is through their ordeal that Cummins humanises the migrant crisis, delivering a powerful portrayal of the extraordinary lengths people will go to in order to save their loved ones. It is a moving portrait of maternal love and an unflinching description of the experiences of wretched, displaced people on the move. Lydia and Luca's journey towards the US border is perilous and terrifying. More than once, Lydia has to run alongside a high-speed train with Luca at her side, scrambling on board with their backpack as it hurtles along. Cummins does not hold back in describing the fate of those who do not time their jump successfully. Along the way there is hunger, cold and the cruelty - and occasionally kindness - of strangers, while the gnawing terror of discovery by their murderous pursuers is ever present. During the journey, they meet and befriend other migrants, each with their own harrowing story about their need to escape. Two teenage sisters fleeing sexual exploitation are particularly affecting, the brutality of their experiences juxtaposed against their fiercely protective sibling bond. It is this contrast - familial love against external atrocities - that gives the novel its immediacy and power. Small details - as when Lydia risks losing the rest of their group in order to put a plaster on Luca's blister - are quietly heart wrenching. What Cummins does so skilfully in the novel is to subvert popular preconceptions about migrants. Lydia is educated, middle-class, escaping to America not in search of better economic opportunities but simply to survive. "She and Luca are actual migrants¿ All her life she's pitied those poor people. She's donated money. She's wondered with the sort of detached fascination of the comfortable elite, how dire the conditions of their lives must be wherever they came from, that this is the better option." Cummins answers this question so compellingly that it is hard to imagine there will be a more urgent or politically relevant novel this year.


Kirkus Review

This terrifying and tender novel is a blunt answer to the question of why immigrants from Latin America cross the U.S. borderand a testimony to the courage it takes to do it.Cummins (The Crooked Branch, 2013, etc.) opens this propulsive novel with a massacre. In a pleasant Acapulco neighborhood, gunmen slaughter 16 people at a family barbecue, from a grandmother to the girl whose quinceaera they are celebrating. The only survivors are Lydia, a young mother, and her 8-year-old son, Luca. She knows they must escape, fast and far. Lydia's husband, Sebastin, is among the dead; he was a fearless journalist whose coverage of the local cartel, Los Jardineros, is the reason los sicarios were sent, as the sign fastened to his dead chest makes clear. Lydia knows there is more to it, that her friendship with a courtly older man who has become her favorite customer at the small bookstore she runs is a secret key, and that she and her son are marked for death. Cummins does a splendid job of capturing Lydia's and Luca's numb shock and then panic in the aftermath of the shootings, then their indomitable will to survive and reach el norteany place they might go in Mexico is cartel territory, and any stranger might be an assassin. She vividly recounts their harrowing travels for more than 1,000 miles by bus, atop a lethally dangerous freight train, and finally on foot across the implacable Sonoran Desert. Peril and brutality follow them, but they also encounter unexpected generosity and heroism. Lydia and Luca are utterly believable characters, and their breathtaking journey moves with the velocity and power of one of those freight trains.Intensely suspenseful and deeply humane, this novel makes migrants seeking to cross the southern U.S. border indelibly individual. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

In a book both timely and prodigiously readable, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) offers an unrelenting and terrifyingly you-are-there account of a Mexican mother and son fleeing to America after cartel violence takes their entire family. Lydia had been comfortably running a bookstore in Acapulco, but cartel violence is escalating, and the charming customer with whom she's become friendly turns out to be the jefe of the newest, cruelest cartel in town. When he's also the subject of her journalist husband's latest reveal-all profile, vengeance is swift, which puts Lydia and Luca on the run by bus and van, in migrant shelters, on top of a train, and, finally, in the remote and blazing American Southwest. Cummins expertly balances the brutality of the cartel, its scary omniscience, and Lydia's ululating fear with Lydia's passionate commitment to Luca's survival and the numerous small, brave acts of kindness she encounters that speed this duo north. VERDICT Here, it's the journey rather than the arrival on American dirt that counts, and readers will wonder whether they could ever have survived such a trek even as they realize that this could happen to them. An important book. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal