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Summary

FEAR KEEPS THEM RUNNING.  

HOPE KEEPS THEM ALIVE.

Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, American Dirt is the first novel to explore the experience of attempting to illegally 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.

An Oprah's Bookclub Pick

As featured on Saturday Review

A BBC Radio 2 Bookclub Pick

Soon to be a BBC Radio 4 Book At Bedtime

A Book to Look Out For in the Observer, Stylist, Sunday Times, Independent, Vogue, New York Times, Oprah magazine, and more.

A Barnes and Noble Bookclub Pick

©2020 Jeanine Cummins (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic reviews

"One hell of a novel about a good woman on the run with her beautiful boy." (Stephen King)

"I couldn't put it down. I'll never stop thinking about it." (Ann Patchett)

"It's been a long time since I turned pages as fast as I did with American Dirt. Its journey is a testament to the power of fear and hope and belief that there are more good people than bad." (John Grisham)

What listeners say about American Dirt

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One of the best audio books I’ve listened to.

I must admit, when I saw that two well known authors of fiction had recommended this book, I was quite skeptical. However, I decided to risk a credit and I have to say this book is quite remarkable. It has opened my eyes to so many things. I really had no idea that drug cartels had so much power in some parts of the world. It is essentially the story of a mother and her young son, after their world has been utterly devastated by the murder of their family. Yet despite the sheer awfulness of their situation, it never once lapses into self pity or sentimentality. I won’t say anymore. Highly recommended.

63 people found this helpful

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A story of courage and compassion, amidst your worst imaginings.

I was drawn to this book by its accompanying marketing. When Stephen King says a novel is critical reading, I listen no matter the genre. I live in the uk, I am English with Celtic heritage. Here immigration is also a political hit potato. We are however far removed from cartels, yet European traffickers are villains of nightmare also.
American Dirt was not as I had expected, it treats the grotesque with a deserving contempt, but it does not trade on suffering. And therefore we have a fictitious novel that can at times seem slow , that is until you remind yourself that the journey undertaken and experiences described are a daily reality. There is no need for exaggeration because if you view the narrative through the eyes of truth it is horrifying to the extreme. It is human suffering at its worst. May those who rally against sanctuary lower their heads in well deserved shame. And remember, as you greet your child at the school gate, and enjoy the many freedoms we have in a lawful free democracy: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

49 people found this helpful

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Break down your prejudices, stop and think

The story of a respectable business owner fleeing a murderous drug cartel in Acapulco. An epic, turbulent and emotional tale. Gripping. Horrifying. A must read. When you think of migrants in the future, no matter where in the world, pause to ask yourself: how bad must their lives have been to take such a risk.

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Eye Opening Narrative

I know it's by a white American but please read her essay on why she chose to write about this topic, then you'll understand why she did.
I can't believe how the world works and this book has just highlighted the true lottery that our lives are. I could have been born anywhere, but I'm lucky to be in a safe, peaceful place where I donot fear for my life. This book opened my eyes to how bad it can be if your coin lands on the 'wrong' side. Please read this book.

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Best book I’ve listened to in ages

Brilliantly written, beautifully narrated - incredibly gripping novel from start to finish... I’m sad it’s over but so glad someone’s tackled this subject matter in such an eloquent way.

22 people found this helpful

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A book everyone should read

Moving, honest, raw, human - an insight into the horrors people trying to escape horrors have to go through to get to a country that doesn’t want them - heartbreaking

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A truly marvellous achievement.

This is such a brilliantly written novel. Full incredibly fully fleshed characters. What terrible experiences they have suffered but full of the will to survive. I am so impressed.

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Highly recommend

Couldn’t stop listening, I laughed, I cried and I didn’t want it to end. One of the best books I’ve listened to in a long long time.

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Oh Dios mío I love this book!



American Dirt.....WOW....what a story! The book is so beautifully written.
Cummins is a very talented and imaginative writer.
She may not be Mexican nor an Immigrant and the story may not be completely accurate.... BUT this is a story that must be told in any way possible.
I am ashamed I hesitated to purchase this powerful book because of the negative media surrounding it.

There are no superlatives perfect enough to describe the wonderful narrator, her beautiful voice lingers on long after I stop listening, I feel I have lived and witnessed this whole journey.

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couldn't put it down!

unbelievable book! such a moving and gripping story, couldn't put it down. 10/10 weekend recommend

11 people found this helpful

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  • Cait Guyette
  • 02-02-20

Not worth the hype

American Dirt is a novel about Mexican cartels and migration written for basic gringas in book clubs. I am a fairly basic gringa. (But I did get kicked out of my book club years ago for the books I picked: David Sedaris was the nail in my book group coffin. I feel no remorse.)
The story starts compellingly but unravels into cliches. When I got this book I liked the sound of the story but as I live at the end of the earth, I wasn’t aware of the hype and subsequent backlash this book had received until after I started reading. I then tried to avoid all of the above.
So this is my take: To begin I am a person who believes in a full scale overhaul of the United States’ immigration policy is needed. I believe in Dreamers. I believe we need to create viable paths to citizenship for people. I’ve worked alongside legal and illegal immigrants and 1st generation citizens who have become lifelong friends and who are the most generous, kind people you could meet despite the majority of the USA treating them like garbage. I also left the United States and am a migrant in another country. I did not leave because of violence or in fear, so I don’t know that experience, but leaving your home, whether you want to or not is hard - and I travelled on a plane not jumping onto moving trains or trekking through the desert. But I know what it’s like to be “other” and to learn to never refer to myself as American again.
That being said, I do think books are a powerful way to bring awareness to these issues. Some basic white people need to realise “these criminals coming to take their jobs” are people: mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. The fact that it this needs to happen is sad, but true. I think Jeanine Cummins meant well (and a 7 figure book deal probably didn’t hurt). I do believe an author is most effective when writing what they know, but should be able to write to others’ experiences if done with respect and research without condemnation. But they will and should be held to a higher standard.
The biggest problem with American Dirt is it just doesn’t hold up to even a normal standard. The characters are simple stereotypes, the action is predictable, the morals are clumsy and heavy handed, and the American Dream propaganda a bit too loud.
The most interesting and complex character to me was Javier, La Lechuza. I wish there had been more chapters on him and his viewpoint. He is still a bit of stereotype and the way that storyline ends is very disappointingly anti-climatic.
Yes, I think people who have lived a life a bit closer to Lydia’s should write this book. Yes, I think people who have been writing books of better quality but with less impressive press tours and blurbs should get more press and widespread devotion. But maybe this book and the controversy will get a basic gringa to seek out more authentic voices or, even better, to support immigration reform and closer ties to our neighbour, Mexico, to work together to reduce cartel violence.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Stephen de Blanche
  • 24-08-21

Incredible read

I too am a refugee/emigrant and immigrate. My beautiful Family was torn apart because of a senseless war (what other kind is there after all..). This story spoke to my core and bought through so many emotions that will resonate with me always. Thank you for reminding us of who we are and to ‘never forget where we came from’.

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  • Len Holder
  • 29-07-21

An honest and eye-opening book

This book opened my eyes to a world of enduring that I knew little about.

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  • Richard Calkin
  • 04-02-21

A wonderful, important novel

Wow. Everyone everywhere should read this book - it’s beautifully written, it’s informative and it tells a compelling story about events happening now. I live in New Zealand and know so little of a migrants life or world - I’m sorry this book is over and it will stay with me for some time yet. I don’t usually write reviews - hopefully at least one Person will feel encouraged to read it and tell three more people to.

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  • Kate C.
  • 20-01-21

Gripping and moving

I wasn’t expecting to find such a gripping storyline which transported me to another place and the horrendous stories of migrants fleeing terror and danger. Has added a new lens to news stories I see now. Brilliant narration.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-12-20

brilliant!

My regard for the migrants has definitely increased 100 fold since reading this book.. to understand that each of those seeking refuge have an individual story for why they would leave all that they know to travel so dangerously through much hardship to eventually reach somewhere they can feel safe enough to begin from scratch..

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-09-20

Gripping

As an outsider this was a huge eye opener on the lives of migrants through South America. Must listen.

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  • Angela Lambson
  • 26-08-20

Gripping!

A powerful, sickeningly relevant story compellingly told. Congratulations to the author, Jeanine Cummins and the narrator, Yareli Arizmendi, who brought it vividly to life.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-08-20

Amazing !

I loved the detail of feeling in this book . So intimate - from both mother and sons perspective. So important to read in these times as the refugee “ problem” takes center stage . This book gives those refugees a face .

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  • Wayne Phillips
  • 02-08-20

Harrowingly true: We all have dreams

Migrants are real individual people with traumatic experiences we could never comprehend. Least we can do is listen and empathise. Best we can do is treat them with dignity as we would want to be treated.