When Lydia’s journalist husband covers the Mexican cartel, the consequences are devastating, leaving her no choice but to flee with her young son. Instead of running her bookshop, she travels with a machete strapped to her leg, jumping from one high-speed train to another in an effort to reach the border and the American dirt beyond. The fast pace and vivid descriptions of fear, hunger, and occasional kindness make this an addictive read, sharply highlighting the fate of Mexican migrants today.
- Recommended by Aileen Smyth, Dubray Liffey Valley
'Where will we go, Mami?' 'I don't know, mijo' she says. 'We'll see. We'll have an adventure.' The afternoon of her niece's fifteenth birthday party, all Lydia's worst nightmares come true. As she and her son Luca cower in a bathroom shower stall, the rest of her family is gunned down by members of Acapulco's most notorious drug cartel, to make an example of her journalist husband. Lydia's survival instincts kick in immediately, and before the bodies of her family have cooled on the patio, she and Luca are fleeing for their lives. Such is the reach of the cartels, with roadblocks on every highway and the police in their pay, that Lydia quickly realises two things: that they must cross the US/Mexico border as quickly as possible, and that they cannot risk travelling by road. For Lydia and Luca, the most dangerous route is the only route - riding illegally atop the freight trains, known as la bestia, hidden amongst the thousands of migrants who will risk everything in the desperate hope of a new start in the United States. AMERICAN DIRT is the most heartstopping story of a mother and son on the run since Emma Donoghue's ROOM, a novel that brings an unforgettably human face to the story of the Mexico/US Border.
Review: So viscerally real and so elegantly written. From the very first page, you know it's just essential reading -- Kate Leaver At once intimate and epic, AMERICAN DIRT is an exhilarating and beautiful book about parental love and human hope -- Rumaan Alam Riveting, timely, a dazzling accomplishment. Jeanine Cummins makes us all live and breathe the refugee story. If a book can change hearts and transform policies, this is the one -- Julia Alvarez Urgent and unforgettable, AMERICAN DIRT leaps the borders of the page and demands attention, especially now -- Sarah Blake From its heart-stopping first sentence to its heart-shattering last, Cummins' story of immigrants is just what we need now -- Don Winslow Tough, powerful... AMERICAN DIRT made me understand better why someone would give up the home they know and love to survive, and the grit required to cross that border -- Tracy Chevalier 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 One hell of a novel about a good woman on the run with her beautiful boy... I defy anyone to read the first seven pages of this book and not finish it -- Stephen King
Author Biography: Jeanine Cummins was born in Spain to Irish and Puerto Rican parents, before settling in the US. She made her career in publishing in New York before turning her hand to writing, and is the author of THE OUTSIDE BOY and the bestselling memoir, A RIP IN HEAVEN (both published by Berkley Press). AMERICAN DIRT, her first book to be published in the UK, was in part inspired by her experience of fostering a migrant child separated from her parents at the US/Mexico Border, which she has written about in the New York Times.