BOOK REVIEW: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Title: American Dirt
Author: Jeanine Cummins
Publication: January 21, 2021
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 387

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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?


When my book club decided to read American Dirt I was pretty excited to read it.  I had had it on my to-be-read shelf in my bedroom since I got it in Feb of 2020.  I had heard all about this book in various news places and the controversy surrounding this book had me wondering what all the hype was about, so when I saw it in a used book store I snapped it right up without thinking. 

Lydia is at her niece’s quinceanera party when she hears gunshots ring out.  She protects her son Luca by hiding in the shower in the house.  When the dust settles she is stunned to find that 16 of her family members have been killed including her husband (who was the target) and her mother.  The reason her husband a journalist wrote an article about a cartel big wig and it caused repercussions in his own home life.  Lydia takes her son and runs towards the US border.  I did enjoy this book however, I didn’t love it.  I found the author took 6 pages to describe something when she could have done it in 3-4.  I thought that some of the story was rather monotonous.   I was shocked by some of the events that this woman and her son endured and as they gathered more people the sisters that Lydia took under her wing.  The things that Lydia and her son endured and saw I would wish upon no one.  To think that people regularly experience these things routinely made my stomach churn.  

I wasn’t a huge fan of the random Spanish words that the author put into the book.  I didn’t know what they meant although sometimes with context clues I could figure it out but not all the time.  While I am sure that they added something to the story, I didn’t feel like they did.  I liked the fact that Luca was a whiz at geography.  It was a lighthearted moment in the book whenever he piped up with a random fact.  It was also his calming blanket that he used when things got too stressful for him. As a book lover, I liked the fact that Lydia owned and operated her own bookstore in Acapulco.  The one thing this book did kind of turn me off to traveling to Mexico… least for now.  I am not sure if I will read any more books by this author, I know that she has several other books that she has written.  All in all, I am very glad that I read this book.  It was powerful, intense, and eye-opening to say the least.  I will recommend it to other people.  


Pick up your own copy of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or check your local bookstore. Also make sure to add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are finished. You can check out more from author Jeanine Cummins HERE.

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