One of My Tougher Reads
I want to start off by saying that I had a hard time both reading this novel and trying to process my thoughts enough to give it a fair review. I picked it to read because it received such high praise from Stephen King and I am a devoted fan to a fault. This review will not address any of the controversy surrounding “American Dirt,” or its author, and will focus only on how well it tells a story and how well it kept my interest. I will try and keep the politics out as much as possible. That being said let me tell you my impression of Lydia and American Dirt.
Lydia is a middle-class, Mexican wife, mother, and bookstore owner whose entire family minus her young son is murdered by the cartel. She makes friends with the head of a Mexican cartel only to have it end in death for retribution for an article her husband wrote, she decides that the only way to escape with her young son is to join the wave of South and Central American migrants heading for the US. The novel relates in vivid detail her journey which includes a multitude of harrowing experiences for her and those with whom she travels.
I was absolutely absorbed by the first half of the book. I liked and cared about the characters and believed what I was reading. Certain scenes actually had me holding my breath, which is rare. Author Jeanine Cummins is excellent at creating situations of maximum risk and danger.
But there’s only so much of that you can take before becoming exhausted. Somewhere around the novel’s midpoint, I found myself really wanting it to be over. I’d gotten the point as to how hard and cruel the migrant’s journey can be; and I wanted the novel and its characters to progress—somehow to grow—which is essential for any good novel. Instead, author Cummins decided to keep on going from danger to danger and to finally come to a resolution that was neither very clear nor particularly satisfying. I am glad however that the story had an ending and didn’t leave me guessing about the safety of the characters.
Furthermore, all the characters seem to have the same basic motivation for coming to the United States: fear. They’re all trying to escape whatever it was that made their living situation unbearable. We don’t see anyone who’s migrating for another reason, which means the novel is somewhat single-layered, which adds to the exhaustion factor. I promised not much talk on the political side but I will say that I enjoyed the Authors note where she explained her personal motivation for writing this novel. While it is popular for book club and the like this book was just not my cup of tea. All in all, a three-star performance and that is being generous.
If you want to buy a copy of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins please click the link below.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins