American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins

READ FOR BOOCKLUB

Chosen by Becks

Mexican Lydia and her son Luca are on the run from Cartel hitmen.

✚ “The interesting part of American Dirt is not only the content, but how the content was received.

“Before it was finished several publishing houses were in a bidding war over publication rights. This hype resulted in the book making all sorts of best-sellers lists. It featured in Oprah’s bookclub, had movie rights secured and was even described as a modern day Grapes of Wrath.

“But perhaps there was an excess of hype, because at the same time it was largely criticised, and called “trauma porn,” with both Mexican and American writers pointing out the American author’s many inconsistencies and errors.

“The book is a migrant drama in which Lydia Perez must flee Acapulco with her eight-year-old son Luca after the rest of her family is murdered by Cartel hitmen. She heads north in the hope of making a safe border crossing to live a free life on American dirt.

“This had all the ingredients to produce a great read but unfortunately it fell a little flat for the freerange bookclubbers. We agreed it began as a page turner, but the further into the book we got, the more the people and situations became cliched. We quickly tired of the characters’ uncanny luck in the face of dangers that do take people’s lives in the real world. The narration, while from the Mexican woman’s POV, felt more like an outsider’s view looking in rather than a sense that the plot was being lived.

“It was only at our bookclub meet with some research from Becks that we discovered the controversy on the book. Online comments ranged from calling the author a racist for attempting to write about Latin issues, through to the cry of censorship. We were not judging Cummins from a moral standpoint, we were not discussing whether she had the right to write the book, but we did  comment on how the lack of depth affected the believability of the plot and the characters, and therefore the enjoyment of the book.

“Controversy aside, we compared American Dirt to a Hollywood-style, block buster. Don’t get too caught up in the why and the how and you’ll be able to enjoy it as fast-paced holiday read.”

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Published 2020
Flatiron Books
400 pages

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