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American Dirt

Narrated by: Yareli Arizmendi
Length: 16 hrs and 54 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (222 ratings)

Non-member price: $33.43

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Publisher's Summary

FEAR KEEPS THEM RUNNING.  

HOPE KEEPS THEM ALIVE.

Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, American Dirt is the first novel to explore the experience of attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexico border. Described as 'impossible to put down' (Saturday Review) and 'essential reading' (Tracy Chevalier), it is a story that will leave you utterly changed.

Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop.

Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist.

Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world.

Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left.

For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg.

For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train.

For him, she will find the strength to keep running.

An Oprah's Bookclub Pick

As featured on Saturday Review

A BBC Radio 2 Bookclub Pick

Soon to be a BBC Radio 4 Book At Bedtime

A Book to Look Out For in the Observer, Stylist, Sunday Times, Independent, Vogue, New York Times, Oprah magazine, and more.

A Barnes and Noble Bookclub Pick

©2020 Jeanine Cummins (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"One hell of a novel about a good woman on the run with her beautiful boy." (Stephen King)

"I couldn't put it down. I'll never stop thinking about it." (Ann Patchett)

"It's been a long time since I turned pages as fast as I did with American Dirt. Its journey is a testament to the power of fear and hope and belief that there are more good people than bad." (John Grisham)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Great read that will stay with you

I really loved this read and the authors note. I tuned back in because I was worried about them.

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riveting read<br />

loved it . brought into focus the harsh realities of central american experience in the era of trump

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Riveting and horrifying but a very engaging book.

I’m not sure why I chose this book and though I am a bit worn out and exhausted buy it, I “enjoyed” it - I say it like this as how can you enjoy such a terrible subject. It literally kept me awake at night and though it is a work of fiction I feel it opened my eyes to a subject from another perspective.
Well written characters and personalities and I didn’t feel them cliched.
Listen to the authors note afterwords too.

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Beautifully narrated and written

The narration was perfect for this book!
I found this book easy to listen and rich in storyline. I have followed the negative outl ash in the needs regarding the author's "right" to approach this subject, but personally I felt that this book gives a face to the subject matter.
in any case, as a book, well worth listening.

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Extraordinary!

What an exceptional story! A page turner from beginning to end. I felt every emotion with this one, and when it ended I knew it would stay with me for a long time. It will. A unique insight into the plight of Mexican migrants who brave the odds for a better life. A brilliant story of survival and courage. It's a perspective not usually privy to. It may be a novel but it's real life. I'll never watch the news in quite the same way...

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Fantastic read

Loved this book. fantastic narrator. superb story, language. Will read more by same author.

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Heart wrenching and gripping

Beautifully written story, interesting characters and eye opening insight into Mexican migration to the USA. The narration was outstanding - it really rounded out the characters and story.

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A compulsive read

Jeanine Cummins has successfully drawn attention to a huge social issue, illegal migrants, while weaving a heart rending, riveting story. You cannot help but be drawn to the strength of the characters that you cry with, and cheer for. Thank you Jeanine for your determination to highlight an issue that our society attempts to sweep under the carpet.

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A Compelling story of human survival

Loved this story of Mexico and a very brave mother and son who flee Acapulco after their entire family is murdered. Beautifully written this is an exceptionally well read novel. The Spanish language is an important part of the wonderful storytelling and lends extraordinary authenticity to plight of migrants heading to El Norte.

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Thank you Jeanine Cummins

If anything, the Epilogue and Author’s Notes are just as important as this story. The plight of someone escaping such terror cannot have enough voices, the story is about humans that deserve every right any other human has, the right to safety and security. Not only North Americans have dreams.

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  • Cait Guyette
  • 02-02-2020

Not worth the hype

American Dirt is a novel about Mexican cartels and migration written for basic gringas in book clubs. I am a fairly basic gringa. (But I did get kicked out of my book club years ago for the books I picked: David Sedaris was the nail in my book group coffin. I feel no remorse.)
The story starts compellingly but unravels into cliches. When I got this book I liked the sound of the story but as I live at the end of the earth, I wasn’t aware of the hype and subsequent backlash this book had received until after I started reading. I then tried to avoid all of the above.
So this is my take: To begin I am a person who believes in a full scale overhaul of the United States’ immigration policy is needed. I believe in Dreamers. I believe we need to create viable paths to citizenship for people. I’ve worked alongside legal and illegal immigrants and 1st generation citizens who have become lifelong friends and who are the most generous, kind people you could meet despite the majority of the USA treating them like garbage. I also left the United States and am a migrant in another country. I did not leave because of violence or in fear, so I don’t know that experience, but leaving your home, whether you want to or not is hard - and I travelled on a plane not jumping onto moving trains or trekking through the desert. But I know what it’s like to be “other” and to learn to never refer to myself as American again.
That being said, I do think books are a powerful way to bring awareness to these issues. Some basic white people need to realise “these criminals coming to take their jobs” are people: mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. The fact that it this needs to happen is sad, but true. I think Jeanine Cummins meant well (and a 7 figure book deal probably didn’t hurt). I do believe an author is most effective when writing what they know, but should be able to write to others’ experiences if done with respect and research without condemnation. But they will and should be held to a higher standard.
The biggest problem with American Dirt is it just doesn’t hold up to even a normal standard. The characters are simple stereotypes, the action is predictable, the morals are clumsy and heavy handed, and the American Dream propaganda a bit too loud.
The most interesting and complex character to me was Javier, La Lechuza. I wish there had been more chapters on him and his viewpoint. He is still a bit of stereotype and the way that storyline ends is very disappointingly anti-climatic.
Yes, I think people who have lived a life a bit closer to Lydia’s should write this book. Yes, I think people who have been writing books of better quality but with less impressive press tours and blurbs should get more press and widespread devotion. But maybe this book and the controversy will get a basic gringa to seek out more authentic voices or, even better, to support immigration reform and closer ties to our neighbour, Mexico, to work together to reduce cartel violence.

5 people found this helpful

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  • MRS R BEAVER
  • 17-05-2020

A story of real survival that will stay with you long after you’ve finished

One of the best stories I’ve ever heard- well written, well narrated and well worth your time! I’ve been educated about the harsh realities migrants face by way of a truly engrossing tale. Bravo Ms Cummins

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  • mmamitse
  • 04-05-2020

Book review, AMERICAN DIRT

This is one of the most compelling pieces of fiction I have had the pleasure of listening to. Thank you Janine. The characters’ state of mind is crystal clear, the journey so detailed and nuanced. A truly beautiful book.

The narrative, the poetry, the audio translation all took my breath away.

Thank you.
Mmamitse Thibedi

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  • Mrs
  • 24-01-2020

One of the best audio books I’ve listened to.

I must admit, when I saw that two well known authors of fiction had recommended this book, I was quite skeptical. However, I decided to risk a credit and I have to say this book is quite remarkable. It has opened my eyes to so many things. I really had no idea that drug cartels had so much power in some parts of the world. It is essentially the story of a mother and her young son, after their world has been utterly devastated by the murder of their family. Yet despite the sheer awfulness of their situation, it never once lapses into self pity or sentimentality. I won’t say anymore. Highly recommended.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs D J Fraser
  • 23-03-2020

A story of courage and compassion, amidst your worst imaginings.

I was drawn to this book by its accompanying marketing. When Stephen King says a novel is critical reading, I listen no matter the genre. I live in the uk, I am English with Celtic heritage. Here immigration is also a political hit potato. We are however far removed from cartels, yet European traffickers are villains of nightmare also.
American Dirt was not as I had expected, it treats the grotesque with a deserving contempt, but it does not trade on suffering. And therefore we have a fictitious novel that can at times seem slow , that is until you remind yourself that the journey undertaken and experiences described are a daily reality. There is no need for exaggeration because if you view the narrative through the eyes of truth it is horrifying to the extreme. It is human suffering at its worst. May those who rally against sanctuary lower their heads in well deserved shame. And remember, as you greet your child at the school gate, and enjoy the many freedoms we have in a lawful free democracy: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

6 people found this helpful

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  • Sally
  • 03-02-2020

Best book I’ve listened to in ages

Brilliantly written, beautifully narrated - incredibly gripping novel from start to finish... I’m sad it’s over but so glad someone’s tackled this subject matter in such an eloquent way.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Mary Compton
  • 30-01-2020

A truly marvellous achievement.

This is such a brilliantly written novel. Full incredibly fully fleshed characters. What terrible experiences they have suffered but full of the will to survive. I am so impressed.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Miss E L Campbell
  • 19-03-2020

couldn't put it down!

unbelievable book! such a moving and gripping story, couldn't put it down. 10/10 weekend recommend

4 people found this helpful

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  • scaddy404
  • 14-03-2020

Break down your prejudices, stop and think

The story of a respectable business owner fleeing a murderous drug cartel in Acapulco. An epic, turbulent and emotional tale. Gripping. Horrifying. A must read. When you think of migrants in the future, no matter where in the world, pause to ask yourself: how bad must their lives have been to take such a risk.

4 people found this helpful

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  • ana
  • 29-01-2020

A book everyone should read

Moving, honest, raw, human - an insight into the horrors people trying to escape horrors have to go through to get to a country that doesn’t want them - heartbreaking

3 people found this helpful

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  • JazCS
  • 05-05-2020

Eye Opening Narrative

I know it's by a white American but please read her essay on why she chose to write about this topic, then you'll understand why she did.
I can't believe how the world works and this book has just highlighted the true lottery that our lives are. I could have been born anywhere, but I'm lucky to be in a safe, peaceful place where I donot fear for my life. This book opened my eyes to how bad it can be if your coin lands on the 'wrong' side. Please read this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-05-2020

Beautiful written

I ended up having an affair with this book. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I searched for opportunities to get back to it, I am bereft now it is finished.
Beautifully written, wonderfully narrated. Highly recommend

1 person found this helpful

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  • Aisling P
  • 01-05-2020

Highly recommend

Couldn’t stop listening, I laughed, I cried and I didn’t want it to end. One of the best books I’ve listened to in a long long time.

1 person found this helpful