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American Dirt

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

A beautifully written and timely story that is suspenseful, compelling and deeply affecting.



In a pleasant Acapulco neighborhood, gunmen slaughter 16 people at a family barbecue. From a grandmother, to the young girl who was celebrating her quinceañera, they are all dead. The only survivors were Lydia, a young mother and her eight-year-old son, Luca. Lydia immediately snaps into action. She knows she and her son must run as fast and as far as possible.

Among the dead is Sebastian, Lydia‘s husband, a well-known journalist who had just published a featured article on Javier Crespo Fuentes, the leader of the local cartel, Los Jardineros. That article is the reason that her entire family is dead.

Lydia knows Fuentes, and actually thought he was a friend. But now she knows he will be looking for her. She trusts no one, and is constantly looking over her shoulder. The cartel is everywhere. She will do whatever it takes to keep her son safe. Lydia and Luca’s harrowing 1,600 mile journey to el norte begins with a terrifying bus ride.

Along the way they meet sisters, Soledad and Rebeca, who teach them what they need to know to ride the trains. They also meet ten-year-old Beto, who was born in a dump in Tijuana, but has the uncanny ability to make them all laugh when things are at their worst. It’s unlikely that all of them will survive the journey.


AMERICAN DIRT is a beautifully told story of the drastic lengths a mother will go to protect her child. The book was both terrifying and riveting. Lydia and Luca’s journey is harrowing and frightening.

I felt as if I walked every step with Lydia. The descriptions of her emotions brought out in the story was impressive. Her shock and panic during and after the massacre, her courage and vulnerability on the road, and her strength and intelligence to do what it took to keep her son safe was heroic.

One of life pleasure is when a book totally surprises you with how good it is. This is one of those books. It’s a story that enlightens and educate us about the dangers so many are facing in Mexico as the power of the drug cartels increases. The dangers are real and their lives are at stake. The choice is difficult, do they stay in the home they know and love and die, or do they want to survive.

Author Jeanine Cummins the wife of a formerly undocumented immigrant started the novel to give a face to the migrants at the Mexican border. She is the author of three other books: The Outside Boys (2010), and The Crooked Branch (2013) and her best-selling memoir A Rip in Heaven (2004). She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Cummins is interested in characters who suffer inconceivable hardship, and people who manage to triumph over extraordinary trauma, characters like Lydia and Soledad. While writing this book she asks the questions: how would I manage if I lived in a place that began to collapse around me, and If my children were in danger, how far would I go to save them? Those are the questions this book answers.

Publisher FlatIron Books

Published January 21,2020

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