Review: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt-blue

Let me begin by saying that this is not a book that I would ordinarily read. Anything that is compared to John Steinbeck is typically something that I would stay far, far away from. I detest Steinbeck and I’d rather never pick up another book again than be forced to try (again) to read The Grapes of Wrath. In fact, I don’t even remember entering a giveaway for this book, but when it arrived and I posted on social media that I’d received it, the outpouring of interest was such that I knew I had to at least attempt to read this book. It’s been on numerous lists of most-anticipated books for 2020 and there is already a ton of hype and buzz surrounding this book, but despite that, I really had very little idea of what the book was going to be about. I fully expected to have an #unpopularopinion and was ready to pan the book before I even cracked it open.

Oh, how I love being wrong. American Dirt deserves ALL of the advanced praise that it has gotten so far. Cummins’ prose is beautiful and evocative, without being overblown or too flowery. This is a fictional account of one woman’s journey with her son, their escape from cartel violence in Acapulco, across the border, into the United States. There is a constant level of anxiety that permeates the novel, and the reader clearly feels the fear that Lydia and her son experience as they travel. In some ways, this novel reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The anxiety, fear, and threat of violence is non-stop, and while exhausting, the reader never becomes numb to it.

American Dirt is an important novel and one that I think everyone needs to read. I don’t say that lightly. It’s one thing to watch the news and see the media portrayal of migrants trying to cross the border between the US and Mexico, to see images of ICE raids or detention centers, but this novel gives a face, a humanity to that sea of people that is often missing from media reports. I defy anyone to read this novel and not be moved.

Thank you to Flatiron Books for the ARC. The views expressed are entirely my own and I already have my finished copy on order. Publishes in the US on January 21, 2020.

~ by Rachel on January 6, 2020.

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