AMERICAN DIRT

455 pages
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BY JEANINE CUMMINS

455 pages

This unputdownable page turner has to be contender for a “must read” for 2020 and we are only in February!  American Dirt is a brilliant, intimate and emotional read about a mother and young son on the run.

 

Without giving too much away, Lydia and her son Luca are unexpectedly forced to flee from their beautiful house and middle-class upbringing in Acapulco, Mexico to escape the clutches of La Lechuza, a dangerous drug trafficking cartel. The only way to do this is to try and make the treacherous journey that thousands of migrants make every year of crossing the border  - el norte to the United States of America. This is one of the most precarious journeys migrants can make and Jeanine Cummins has researched this topic since 2013.  Whilst half a million survive this journey every year, thousands more don’t make it. 

 

As Lydia and Luca undertake this remarkable journey, they meet fellow travellers, some good, some bad but all trying to reach the golden land of dreams for a better life before they are hunted down. You share every drop of their fear, their bravery, their pain and the remarkable bonds they forge with other migrants.  It is a gripping story of high suspense told with such empathy made all the more powerful because Lydia, previously one of the privileged class, finds herself fighting for her and Luca’s life reducing her to levels she would never had considered before.  Whereas before, Luca’s upcoming priority was studying for the school’s international geography bee, now it trying to jump onto a moving train without killing himself.  The question is simple – how far would an ordinary individual go to save her child?

 

As Cummins says in her note at the end of the book, there are currently around 40,000 people reported missing across Mexico. trying to escape from Mexico across the border to USA. This surely chimes for us in Europe as we watch thousands of migrants trying to cross the sea to Italy in search of a better life in Europe and rarely do we know the individual stories of those families prepared to make such dangerous sacrifices. 

 

Jeanine Cummins said one of the reasons for writing this book was to personalise one of these stories so the rest of world might see this huge number of immigrants for what they, individual people with their own unique story and background. She has certainly achieved her aim of bringing this story to our attention by not focusing on the mass migration or gratuitous violence of the cartels, but by humanising an individual’s reasons for making this treacherous crossing into the unknown.

 

The Den urge to read this book, even though it is as yet only out in hardback. 

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