Book review

American Dirt

Jeanine Cummins

In a few words

A deeply moving story of a Mexican widow’s desperate flight to the United States with her young son after her extended family is killed by a drug cartel.

Great for

Those who enjoy a contemporary, character-driven story that packs a real punch. It’s a page-turner.

Why I love this book

Lydia and her young eight-year-old son, Luca, are forced to flee for their lives when the local drug cartel in Acapulco wreaks revenge for an explosive article written by her husband, an investigative journalist. Sixteen members of their family are killed but Lydia and her son escape, hiding in the bathroom. Because it’s a personal vendetta, she realises they must flee to the safety of the U.S. and her distant cousin in Denver is her only hope, as the cartel has tentacles everywhere in Mexico.

What follows is a harrowing 1600 mile, 19 day journey by way of bus, train rooves, trucks and on foot, throughout which Lydia is constantly fearful of the cartel members finishing off the job. The tension never ceases and you constantly worry for the two of them.
On this perilous journey they rely on others for help, some inspiringly courageous and others totally unprincipled. They also meet up with other would-be migrants, all with their own sad stories, and not all of them to be trusted. It’s an incredible journey and an incredible book.

My one criticism would be

No criticisms at all. The reader becomes so much more aware of the plight of migrants and refugees.

Barbara Brown


Barbara enjoys character-driven books and the opportunity to learn something; about cultures, countries or history.

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