I am currently reading “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins.
Lydia Quixano Perez runs a bookstore. Luca, aged 8 and her only child, is her life. Her husband Sebastian is a journalist. He wrote an article about a drug cartel, and they have come for him and his family.
Their entire family is at her mother’s home celebrating a niece’s birthday when Lydia and Luca go inside for something. They hear the gunshots.
Lydia and Luca are crouched in the bathroom. Behind a tiled wall that suggests a wall. It is around five feet high and three feet long.
One of the gunmen comes inside to relieve himself but does not see them. Outside the gunfire continues. Lydia tries to cover Luca’s ears, as though she can block the noise that destroys their family within minutes.
The men outside eat Sebastion’s grilled chicken as they stand among the carnage.
From The Book:
“One of the very first bullets comes in through the open window above the toilet where Luca is standing. He doesn’t immediately understand that it’s a bullet at all, and it’s only luck that it didn’t strike him between the eyes. Luca hardly registers the mild noise it makes as it flies past and lodges into the tiled wall behind him.
“But the wash of bullets that follows is loud, booming and thudding, clack-clacking with helicopter speed. There is a raft of screams too, but that noise is short-lived, soon exterminated by the gunfire.”
And Another Excerpt:
“It might be better for him to go and look, to see the brilliant splatters of colors on Yenifer’s white dress. To see Adrian’s eyes, open to the sky. To see Abuela’s gray hair, matted with stuff that should never exist outside the neat encasement of a skull.
“Because none of it, however horrific, is worse than the images Luca will conjure instead with the radiance of his own imagination.“
Lydia knows they will be looking for her to finish the job they started. So she grabs what she can and goes on the run with Luca. Finding themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence.
They gather with other migrants and learn to leap on passing trains to make their way north toward the US. Her husband has family there. On their journey they witness violence. So much violence.
They never know where they will sleep or when they will eat. And they learn to depend on the kindness of strangers to give them food and water.
Jeannine Cummins leads the reader through the danger and terror of always being on the run, never knowing who to trust.
American Dirt is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page.
The book is already being hailed as “a Grapes of Wrath for our times” and “a new American classic.”
American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.