American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Lydia and Luca, mother and son, hide in the bathroom of their Acapulco home as they listen to the gunfire in their backyard. Their entire family – husband/father, mother/grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins – lies dead, slaughtered by members of a powerful drug cartel. Why? Because Lydia’s husband, a journalist, dared to write about the evils of the newest drug cartel in Mexico, led by a powerful man known as The Owl.
Lydia owns and operates a small bookstore in Acapulco, catering to tourists. Lydia befriends and entertains in her bookstore a charming man who relates to her love of books. Little does she know that this man is The Owl. After her family is murdered, she realizes the depths of this man’s cruelty and violence and knows, beyond any doubts, that she and Luca will also be killed. She exercises her only option: flee to the United States.
This story, although fiction, could in reality be true in many cases. Ms. Cummins details the dangers and horrors of Lydia’s and Luca’s journey, the fears of being traced, caught, and murdered by the cartel, and also the distrust and amazement as she relates to others seeking asylum. It chronicles the perils of living in a cartel-run country and the perils of attempting to leave a cartel-run country.
Review by Harriet Engle