Review by Beverly Lister.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins One of my favourite book genres is Thriller, and I have indeed read many. But American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is on another level entirely. It is a meaty book, coming in at around 465 pages. But as a testament to its riveting nature, I read it in one, albeit quite long, sitting. It is difficult to write a synopsis of the story without giving the game away immediately so excuse me if this appears brief. Lydia owns a bookshop in Acapulco, and enjoys a comfortable middle class life with her journalist husband Sebastian and her eight year old son Luca. But it just takes minutes and a truly horrific incident to shatter the life that she knows and to cause her to flee hundreds of miles with Luca in tow to save their lives. They have instantly become migrants, fleeing without traceable technology or documentation so as to escape and travel undetected by their pursuers. The risks they take and the obstacles they encounter during their long journey across Mexico to the American border are what makes this book so gripping. Cummins very cleverly starts the book with the main event, and then fills in the characters’ back stories gradually, intermingled with the wild ride of Lydia’s and Luca’s harrowing flight from danger. She writes beautifully and movingly of the kindness of strangers towards them; these poignant passages moved me to tears. American Dirt is at once a heartstopping thriller, a social commentary and an exposé of organised crime. I found it an important read in many ways, very topical and a humane rendering of the plight of migrants, which we hear so much about in the news every day. Cummins tells the heartbreaking back stories of the individual migrant characters that Lydia and Luca travel with, each of which have their own reasons for fleeing their homelands and their loved ones. Even for a dedicated lover of thrillers as I am, I will say that this one is not for the faint hearted. The twists and turns come thick and fast and continue to the very end. I found myself shouting warnings, my heart pounding all the while. But that just added to the excitement of reading this pacey, interesting and hugely captivating book