Lydia Quixano Perez 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 four 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.
“Outside the window he hears Mami’s tentative footsteps, the soft scuff of her shoe through the remnants of something broken. A solitary gasp, too windy to be called a sob. Then a quickening of sound as she crosses the patio with purpose, depresses the keys on her phone. When she speaks, her voice has a stretched quality that Luca has never heard before, high and tight in the back of her throat.
“Send help.” ”
Friends, fellow readers, and anyone with a beating heart, I encourage you to pick up this book when it is released in January. Not only is it timely with the feel of a modern classic, American Dirt is a gripping page turner taut with suspense and claustrophobic encounters. If you’re of the audiobook loving type, I strongly encourage you experience this one being read to you, as it’s one of the best narrations I’ve heard to date. Please note that this is a beautifully uncomfortable read, full of graphic violence that leaves a trail of bodies in its wake, so if you’re squeamish in those instances this might not be the story for you. If you have a stomach of steel, though, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
From the first sentence, I was invested in this beautiful family’s story. Lydia and Luca are easily connected with, and by the end of the story the pair became one of the most beloved fictional character sets I’ve come across. The story is told from both of their POVs, and the contrast between an adult telling of the horrors encountered and how a child might view them simply gutted me. The tension is almost overwhelming from the very first page, and we alternate between the scene that requires Lydia and Luca to run from their lives and the instances that brought them to this point in the first place. Once we are finally caught up, it’s a race for time and for their lives, while also receiving a glimpse into other refugees’ experiences along their journey.
It’s fair to note that the author did a wonderful job bringing attention to the refugee crisis without making it political; obviously, it is a political issue, but she wrote a story that can draw anyone in, rather than trying to beat the reader over the head with any personal opinions. I felt the purpose of this story was to bring attention to an international issue, with the focus being on the tender relationship of mother/son, and how far a parent would go to save the only family they have remaining. I truly believe this will be one of the most buzz-worthy books of 2020, which feels strange to state in December of 2019, yet after finishing this story I can’t imagine American Dirt being anything other than a best seller that will be remembered in the long term future.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my ARC and for providing my ALC via @libro.fm.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.