Book Review: “American Dirt” By Jeanine Cummins

american dirt

Our latest DC Thomson book club pick at work is “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins.

Following an attack on her family, Lydia Quixano Pérez and her young son, Luca, are forced to make the journey from Mexico to the United States.

Despite the dangers they face, they know that if they want any chance of survival, they cannot stay in Mexico.

They can’t trust anyone — not the authorities, not their fellow migrants, not even the people who offer kindness along the way.

A life stripped away

The first sentence sets the novel’s relentless pace. The plot is immediately in motion.

It throws the reader straight into the terrible events that change Lydia and Luca’s lives forever, and the shattering effect it has on their lives.

Yesterday, Lydia owned a small bookshop. Her husband was a journalist. And her son was going to enter the geography bee at school.

Now, in almost no time at all, the life they had vanishes.

The book confronts us

The paranoia and fear that Lydia feels throughout the journey leaps from the pages. The story is tense with the trauma and pain she has no room to process.

Luca, too, has to push away what has happened until they can reach their destination.

The story leaves no room for respite.

Even when Lydia and Luca are in a somewhat stable situation, there is an overwhelming feeling that nothing is safe.

Although the characters are fictional, the book confronts us with the reality of the journey that thousands upon thousands of people face even today.


Despite initial critical acclaim — it was even picked by Oprah for her book club — “American Dirt” has since ignited controversy.

It has started a conversation about who should tell these stories, and why Latinx and migrant writers have not been met with similar acclaim to Cummins.

For more book reviews from “The People’s Friend” team, click here.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.