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American Dirt
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January 2020: Thriller > American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins 3/5

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Nicole D. | 1482 comments This over-hyped and over-lauded book is ultimately about migrants coming from Central America and Mexico to the United States. I should have written my review before I read about the controversy. It was getting 4-stars. Not because it was great, but because I couldn't put it down. It was a good book to listen to while doing other things.

If you aren't up to speed on a small part of the controversy the book cover is barbed wire with flowers, and the book party at Book Expo had barbed-wire wall pieces with flowers as the centerpieces. One of the most tone-deaf things I've ever seen. I know that's not the authors fault, but if you are trying to stand up for something with this book, then you know, stand up for it. Floral barbed-wire doesn't convey the despair.

In late 2018, I participated in a caravan taking supplies down to the large migrant camp in Tijuana. I still think about it most days. That left me "utterly changed." There were some things about this book which were illuminating for me. You know the people have come from bad situations, left their families behind, some died, were robbed, beaten or raped along the way, so it was interesting to get a look at what that long road is like. How a simple thing like a blister could be the difference between life and death. It made me more interested in knowing the stories of the migrants I met that day.

What bugged me about this book is that I felt it was whitewashed, predictable and that the author wasn't ultimately brave enough to take the story where it needed to go to be truly great. You'd meet characters and instantly know their fate. This is an important topic, and the story almost tells itself. I feel like Cummins wanted mass appeal, so she gave us a middle-class protagonist (view spoiler). It felt like a cop out.

One thing sorely missing from this book was emotion. That's what makes this a more "thriller" type airplane read than anything truly great. I didn't cry until the authors note when she mentioned graffiti painted on the border wall translated as "On this side, too, there are dreams."

This novel is not the things it purports to be, which is a shame because the potential was there.

message 2: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5779 comments So I am still undecided about this.

Great review.

So much to think about.

message 3: by Theresa (last edited Jan 26, 2020 12:40AM) (new)

Theresa | 6682 comments Until the hype seemed to escalate and the controversy burst out, I had truly thought this book was a thriller pulled from the headlines and not a book written to really tell the Southern migrant story. Which is absolutely a story needing to be told. Cynically I am now thinking that a publicity machine saw an opportunity to make it into something other than thriller genre fiction, the author got on the band wagon and voila, no longer just a thriller.

Of course the end result: more books will be sold as people read it to find out what the uproar is all about.

Will I read it? Probably some day. Or maybe not. I was interested when I thought it a thriller. Now I might just read another Reacher.😁

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5228 comments Great review. As I know little of what is really going on there, I might get more from it than you did, but you make a really important point. We need to hear from different perspectives, particularly from the migrants themselves. I figure there are many books in the pipeline from different types of writers and researchers. Maybe someone like Katharine Boo has a team there now.

message 5: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7488 comments Well Nicole, you have given me pause. Not so sure I will rush to read it. Very nice review. And thanks for sharing your personal story.

Raine (rainelu) | 220 comments Thanks for the review. This is my next face-to-face book club read, and the leader of the club is very enthusiastic about it. I just got it from the library, so we'll see. My favorite book of this type is TORTILLA CURTAIN.

message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8525 comments I admit I haven’t been paying attention in the least to the controversy! But I put it on my radar and TBR. Your review makes me consider. This book so new on my TBR has already become a yo yo.

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