April 10, 2020
Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Suspense, Family Drama, Migrant, Mother/Child, Hispanic
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Lydia, her journalist husband, and their young son live a comfortable, middle-class life in Acapulco, Mexico. Lydia and her husband are following their dreams: Lydia owns a bookshop while her husband writes investigative pieces that expose gang crime in the area. One day Lydia unknowingly befriends a charming bookshop customer who turns out to be the head of the newest drug cartel that has taken over the city. Her friendship with Javier sets in motion a tragic sequence of events that force Lydia and her eight-year-old son to flee for their lives.
Unrelenting drama, suspense, harrowing experiences, grief, and trauma.
Whew! This is an intense read! From the first page (which describes a massacre) to the last, I had to remind myself to breathe. I felt like I was on the run with Lydia.
Plot Driven: Although the story is heavily plot-driven, Lydia is also a well-drawn and complicated character. If you love a fast-paced and tension-filled storyline, you will likely appreciate American Dirt.
Controversial: I chose to read American Dirt in spite of the controversy that surrounds it. I had read enough good reviews that I wanted to see for myself. Being aware of and appreciating the objections helped me read with a more critical mindset. At times, I thought “OK, this is one person’s experience or perspective, but I wonder if this is typical or a stereotype.” To be fair, stereotypes are something I frequently think about when reading any book. It would have been helpful to buddy read American Dirt with an “own voices” reader who could point out certain stereotypes. As a reader who is white and growing in awareness, nothing stood out to me as objectionable or unfair. However, I’m well aware that a reader with more experience and first-hand knowledge might have different reactions and opinions. Finally, I think I feel that if an author has done five years of research, she probably has a great deal of knowledge and the heart to write this story (I’m still thinking about this). Here are two articles I found that will help explain the controversy:
Themes: Thoughtful themes include found family, a mother’s determination to save/protect her child, trust, taking care of others, found family, survival, grit, grief, surviving life’s threatening circumstances, on the run, current events, freedom of the press, and fighting for a brighter and safer future.
Overall, I’m glad I read American Dirt even though it was an emotionally difficult read. I felt a bit overwhelmed with the drama in the sense that every dire circumstance was being thrown at me (and Lydia).
Recommended: I’m recommending American Dirt for readers who might appreciate a survival story, for those who are curious about the controversy, for readers who enjoy themes about current events, and for fans of stories that feature a brave and determined mother who is focused solely on saving her child.
Trigger and Content Warnings: a massacre (first few pages), fear, rape, life-threatening circumstances, death
Own Voices: If you are an “own voices” reviewer, I’d love to link your review here. Please drop a link in the comments.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Jeanine Cummins
Jeanine Cummins is the author of four books: the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, and the novels The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.
Have you read American Dirt? Is it on your TBR or will you skip this one? Why or why not?
Do you feel this is a fair review?
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If you are an “own voices” reviewer, I’d love to read (and possibly link) your review. Please drop a link in the comments.
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