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February 7, 2020

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts 


"One of the very first bullets comes in through the open window above the toilet where Luca is standing.  He doesn't immediately understand that it's a bullet at all, and its only luck that it doesn't strike him between the eyes.  Luca hardly registers the mild noise it makes as it flies past and lodges into the tiled wall behind him.  But the wash of bullets that follows is loud, booming, and thudding, clack-clacking with helicopter speed  There is a raft of screams, too, but that noise is short lived, soon exterminated by the gunfire.  Before Luca can zip his pants, lower the lid climb up and look out, before he has time to verify the source of the terrible clamor, the bathroom door swings open and Mami is there." (p 1)

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January 2020; Flatiron Books; 978-1250209764
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); literary fiction
American Dirt is one of the most highly anticipated books of the winter. It has shown up on numerous 'best of' lists and is getting a lot of positive attention.  I tend to be a bit skeptical about a book that is so talked about and always wonder if the critics liked it but the average reader won't -  let me assure you that American Dirt not only belongs on best of January books but will be on BEST of 2020 books.

Lydia lives in Acapulco with her 8-year-old son Luca and her husband Sebastian, a reporter.  She owns a bookstore and surrounds herself with the books that she loves.  She isn't rich but her family and extended family live good honest hard-working lives.  Until Sebastian writes an article about the leader of a drug cartel in the area.  At a family cookout, Sebastian and 15 other members of Lydia's family are massacred by the cartel.  Only Lydia and Luca survive and she knows that they must run if they are going to stay alive.  They begin a trip to Los Estados Unidos where they know they will be safe.  On the almost month-long trip, they meet other migrants who help them as they are faced with robbery, corrupt police, hunger but mostly fear - fear of being successful in their journey and fear of the cartel who is still searching for her.

I was pulled into this story on the first page and that feeling stayed until the end. I ached for Lydia and Luca and I cried with them.  I felt their terror and anguish as they are met with problems every step of the way.  Even though I was anxious to know how Lydia's journey ended, I read this book very slowly.  The writing is exquisite and I highlighted many passages that were beautiful.  I can't say enough good things about this book.  I hope that many people read it and realize that there are numerous reasons that people leave their country looking for a better life.  It isn't political at all, the author tells a story and the reader can make up their own mind.  This book and these characters are unforgettable and even though it's early in 2020, I know that this book will be one of my favorites of the year.

“If there's one good thing about terror, Lydia now understands, it's that it's more immediate than grief. She knows that she will soon have to contend with what's happened, but for now, the possibility of what might happen still serves to anesthetize her from the worst of the anguish.”

Buy American Dirt at Amazon

#1 Indie Next Pick for February
January 2020 Library Reads Pick
A Most-Anticipated Book of the Season/Year: The New York Times, Vogue, Marie Claire, Real Simple, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, Woman’s Day, Parade, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, Time, Fast Company, Forbes, Esquire, USA Today, PopSugar, Bustle, and The New York Times Book Review

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter

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