Banner American Dirt - Touring Tales Book Blog

Book Review: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Bestselling and hugely popular novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is today’s book review shared by hubby Dave. Having been recommended the book by aunt Pam, a keen book worm herself, Dave ordered a copy and delved into the book. Before Dave shares his thoughts on American Dirt, here’s the background info to the book.

Book Cover Notes

Lydia Perez owns a bookshop in Acapulco, Mexico, and is married to a fearless journalist. Luca, their eight-year-old son, completes the family.

But it only takes a bullet to rip them apart.

In a city in the grip of a drug cartel, friends become enemies overnight, and Lydia has no choice but to flee with Luca at her side. North for the border… whatever it takes to stay alive.

The journey is dangerous – not only for them, but for those they encounter along the way. Who can be trusted? What sacrifices is Lydia prepared to make?

American Dirt shines a beam of light into a world where a mother’s love for her son – and the kindness of strangers – might just triumph. This extraordinary novel has sold over a million copies since publication; it’s time to read what you’ve been missing.

“So Lydia is worried about all these things, and yet, she has a new understanding about the futility of worry. The worst will either happen or not happen, and there’s no worry that will make a difference in either direction. Don’t think.”

Dave’s Thoughts

I like a book that gives you something more than just a good story. This brought home to me why there are so many people around the world migrating, not simply for a better life, although some do, but to escape death.  This is not a true story, but it is based on real events and is well researched.  

We follow Lydia, a successful bookstore owner and her 8 year old son Luca.  Lydia’s husband, a journalist wrote a profile about the head of the drug cartel.  This caused a chain of events that led to the massacre of the husband and extended family at their BBQ.  By stealth, only Lydia and Luca survive and now they are on the run from the cartel with nothing more than what they can stuff in a bag.  

Who they were yesterday, is no longer relevant. Today they are homeless migrants, hunted by the cartel who have eyes everywhere.  Even law enforcement are on the payroll. Phones, cash cards, ticket purchases will all serve to flag their whereabouts as they try to flee to the US.  

After initially dismissing surfing on the rooftops of trains – knowing the stats of deaths – they are forced to go down that route and jump aboard ‘La Bestia’ having accepted there are no alternatives. If like me, you didn’t really know much of ‘La Bestia’ (the Beast) then Google it – it makes sober reading/watching. It’s the name given to the freight trains that run north through Mexico to the US border at Texas.  

Migrants have to jump on the moving train and ride on top. Hundreds of thousands attempt the journey each year. Getting on is only part of the risk.  Many fall off as it rocks around, get knocked off by tree branches or are captured or killed by gangs for the few dollars they have. Law enforcement is often corrupt, so capture does not guarantee a safe passage back home. 

Those who survive weeks on top of the trains run the gauntlet of finding someone who can smuggle them over the border. This might involve walking across mountains and desert in extreme temperatures for days with only the water & provisions they can carry.  Again, its a lottery, most traffickers are corrupt so what little money or dignity they had scraped together is likely to be lost too.

The story cracks along at a good pace and you become anxious and hopeful that they will make it through.  Along the way they encounter; friendship, generosity and kindness, but predominantly; jeopardy, hostility, scams, beatings and for the women, worse.

Although a novel, American Dirt has opened my eyes to the state of some countries, the plight of some of its citizens and their motives to escape it. There’s nothing wrong of course with moving to a better place, people do it all the time, be that a bigger house, a nicer town or better climate.  What sets us apart though, is that we have a choice.  For many, it really is life or death. Not only “at home” but they gamble their lives and those of their loved ones on a journey, in the hope of safety and shelter.


I’d highly recommend this novel as a damn good thriller, one that then starts you on a discovery of knowledge, rage, compassion and kindness. What if it was you and your son, how would you want to be treated?  And at a more micro level, what will you do differently for those less fortunate?  It makes you think.

Where To Buy

Amazon UK

Further book info
  • Published Date: 18th Feb 2021
  • Publisher: Tinder Press
  • Page Count: 480

About The Author

Jeanine Cummins is the author of American Dirt a New York Times and Sunday Times Bestseller. Her previous books are the novels The Outside Boy and The Crooked Branch and a true crime work A Rip in Heaven.

She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Where To Find Jeanine Online

Website | Twitter

I hope you’ve enjoyed Dave’s book review of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Don’t forget to check out Jeanine’s other books:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *