Get a free audiobook

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club)

A Novel
Written by: Jeanine Cummins
Narrated by: Yareli Arizmendi
Length: 16 hrs and 43 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,024 ratings)

CDN$ 14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

Number-one New York Times best seller

Oprah’s Book Club Pick

"Extraordinary." (Stephen King)

"This book is not simply the great American novel; it’s the great novel of las Americas. It’s the great world novel! This is the international story of our times. Masterful." (Sandra Cisneros)

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day, a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy - two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia - trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave listeners utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity. It is one of the most important books for our times. 

Already being hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times" and "a new American classic", Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope. 

"Narrator Yareli Arizmendi illuminates the humanity and individuality of Latin American migrants as they flee toward refuge in the North.... The account of Lydia and Luca's travails, including terrifying rides atop Mexico's freight trains, is utterly compelling. But it is Arizmendi's voicing of Lydia, so full of fierce tenderness, that will stay with listeners after the story's close." (AudioFile Magazine)

©2020 Jeanine Cummins (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

What the critics say

"I strive to write page-turners because I love to read them, and it’s been a long time since I turned pages as fast as I did with American Dirt. Its plot is tight, smart, and unpredictable. Its message is important and timely, but not political. Its characters are violent, compassionate, sadistic, fragile, and heroic. It is rich in authenticity. Its journey is a testament to the power of fear and hope and belief that there are more good people than bad." (John Grisham)

"American Dirt is both a moral compass and a riveting read. I couldn’t put it down. I’ll never stop thinking about it." (Ann Patchett, number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Dutch House and Commonwealth)

"Relevant, powerful, extraordinary. It is a remarkable combination of joy and terror, infused always with the restorative power of a mother's love and the endless human capacity for hope. I hope everyone reads it and is as moved by it as I was." (Kristin Hannah, number one New York Times best-selling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone)

What listeners say about American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club)

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    794
  • 4 Stars
    171
  • 3 Stars
    44
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    762
  • 4 Stars
    116
  • 3 Stars
    21
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    4
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    689
  • 4 Stars
    145
  • 3 Stars
    56
  • 2 Stars
    10
  • 1 Stars
    5

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gut wrenching to listen to...

This story though beautifully written is not for the faint of heart. However no matter how hard the story was to listen to at times I couldn’t turn it off.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Not "Grapes of Wrath for our times"

There are a lot of heated debates out there about whether this book accurately portrays the lives of migrants. My review is not about that (I am not qualified to have an opinion on that).

The comparison to Steinbeck's classic was one of the reasons the book attracted my attention. Alas, I don't believe this is a good comparison.... It is not even close! The characters have potential, but not well developed. Well, unless you consider being melodramatic good character development. I find the pose awkward and clumsy. And then there is this constant shift of point-of-view... making it sometimes disorienting. This is made worse when the author used adult language when you are supposed to be narrating from the point of view of an eight year old.

On the positive side, the book does move at a good pace and is generally easy listen. Just don't expect it to have the caliber to Gapes of Wrath.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

AMAZING!!!

This book gripped me from the moment I started listening to it. I was completely blown away by the imagery and the details. The language was just incredible. The author really outdid herself in portraying the world through the migrant view. I loved the narrator as well. I will listen to this book again and again. Definitely changed my perspective from passive acceptance to really seeing the struggles these people face. I wish I could do something to help. It will tear at your heart strings. Make you cry a bit and laugh too. I resonated with all of the characters. It was awe-inspiring. Perfect!!!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Thank you

A great story that all should read. Very eye opening. Very well researched. Thank you for writing the story.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Superbly written

There is nothing I love more than a well written book about something that is a revelation to me. The way I felt about this book reminded me of the way I felt when I read my all time favourite book "A Fine Balance" - some paragraphs so impactful that you want to keep it open to the page and shine a light on it to remember it always or write it down in a journal that you can pull out and read over and over again. Both of these books brought me to people, places and situations that unknown to me before I read them - India in the 1970's when I was a teenager on the other side of the world not knowing what was going on there and now American Dirt a present day migrant journey that feels worlds away from me. I felt that I could see things, hear things and smell things along their journey, the descriptions where so good. As far as controversy goes - I do not buy into it as many authors have written wonderful books about places and times that they did not experience for themselves.
.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Mesmerizing story

Wasn't sure whether this was a story that I would really enjoy but wanted to give it a fair try. I have to say it gripped me right from the start and made me want to keep listening, partly to find out what happens to Lydia and Luca, but also to educate myself about what migrants really endure, trying to get to 'El Norte'. A truly inspiring read/listen!!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

wonderful read!

loved it! I could not put the book down! had me gasping at every turn.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not what I expected.

Too much detail and time spent on the illegal train ride to America. character development was interesting.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

beautifully enveloping story and performance

a great balance of a compelling page a great balance of a compelling page turner, well drawn characters, great prose , well drawn characters, great prose

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

WOW

This is an incredible story. ignore the controversy and enjoy this amazing book. Beautiful writing.

1 person found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Nat Smith
  • 2020-01-27

Stereotypes and melodrama

Endless, endless melodrama yawn inducing, and without any nuance in characters. Also without any suspense. Just a dreary slog. And this is a “great” book? Twain must be rolling in his grave.

194 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • R. Rodriguez
  • 2020-01-31

Sappy and unrealistic - an insult to intelligence

I know there's a bunch of controversies, but that's not even the point. As I read this book everything just seemed like a telenovela version of reality. Really overblown, sappy and uneven. Stereotypical, one-dimensional. It goes from unrealistic depictions of gang activities in Mexico, with the most ridiculous scenarios of power to a (I don't even know what word to use) innocent romance between a murderous gang leader who wears spectacles and happens also to have a soft heart and loves bad poetry. And he is just is "so misunderstood". REALLY! What a waste of time and money, after 14 slogging chapters trying to find out what I am missing, I gave up. I would bet this will become a bad movie with the typical cast of Hollywood Hispanic characters. The performer reads the book as if she's on Prozac. How irritating.

158 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Marlene L Marquez
  • 2020-02-12

Completely unrealistic

As a Mexican-American, I found this book ridiculous and insulting. If I could give it negative stars or a bomb, I would. From beginning to end, the content, dialog and references were way off for Mexican culture and history as I experienced it. Just Google quinceañera images and tell me how in the world THAT would work for a backyard barbecue. So every time Cummins mentions it or a spatula or lists out the names of ALL that attended, I rolled my eyes. Trying to imagine a cartel kingpin in studious glasses waxing and waning poetry and philosophy, I rolled my eyes. When a middle class business woman is forced by plot ploys to follow the migrant trail of those at the lowest economic levels, I rolled my eyes. When the good Mexicans and migrants constantly crossed themselves, said a rosary or said gracias a Dios, and the bad Mexicans constantly raped and murdered, I rolled my eyes. When an 8 year old is accepted as a Mexican national, not because he provides paperwork, but because he can spout out all the geographical detail of his home state, I rolled my eyes. When cell phones don’t work in the desert (as is expected) for tension and drama, but not only work but allow FaceTime when the plot requires it, I rolled my eyes. When the worst our protagonists suffer in a cross thru the brutal desert is sweat and a single blister remedied by a bandaid, I rolled my eyes.

And it goes on and on and on...

While I understand the desire to better understand the struggles and tragedies of those living on the border and those struggling to migrate across the Americas, I strongly recommend you use your money to buy Luis Alberto Urrea’s books instead: The House of Broken Angels for living on the northern side of the border, The Devils Highway for the brutality of crossing the border, and By the Lake of Sleeping Children (where Cummins hijacked Urrea's real life experiences in the Tijuana dump) for life on the southern side of the border.

126 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jess Tarr
  • 2020-01-22

Gripping, Heartbreaking, Beautiful & Eye-Opening!

This was a difficult book to read because it is SO well-written and so vividly and accurately describes the treacherous decisions and journeys of migrants attempting to cross the border into the USA. I felt as if I was there with them as they experienced the horrors and beautiful glimpses of humanity on their incredible escape. I could not stop listening, even though I really wanted to close my heart off to their pain at moments. Not only was it an excellently written book, it is an important reminder of the hardships and suffering that many humans in the world must deal with daily. It will leave you feeling grateful for your life and hopefully full of empathy for the lives of people less fortunate.

I am a picky reader but truly cannot find a single flaw with this book or the narration. I'm going to look up more books by this author as soon as I post this review!

123 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Melinda
  • 2020-01-31

A very mediocre book.

I bought this title before the negative criticisms arose. When my daughter expressed shock at my purchasing it I was dismayed because i thought it was too mundane to be controversial. I think it’s lack of excellence is what becomes so offensive as you proceed through it. The plot line isn’t terrible. It is contrived and improbable ,but it is fiction. The author uses way, way too much repetitive reflection as padding. The reading probably propels the book more than it deserves because it is very good. It is just such a trite, Lifetime Movie perspective on the gut wrenching tragedy suffered by those forced into migration, It steers so vehemently away from the disastrous political and racist elements involved. It poses no questions whatsoever, just runs it’s dull, repetitive, derivative narrative down the track. It turns an epic historical tragedy into a dull novel. Now that’s tricky. If Oprah hadn’t endorsed it the book would have disappeared like so many bad efforts do.

121 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-01-31

Amazing!

I’m Mexican-American, but my parents were from Mexico. They both came to the US as illegals, but eventually received their green cards. They became US citizens many years later (in their 60s/70s). This book touched my heart and opened my eyes to the atrocities that the migrants go thru. The controversy about this book that is out there is insane. I not once thought that this book added to a Latino stereotype. I have never written a review for any of the many books I have read or listened to, but felt compelled to write one for this book. Jeanine, you are an amazing author. Please continue to write more books that impact our society and don’t let the naysayers affect your writing. God bless you from San Diego...

87 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Natalie A. Kindt
  • 2020-02-02

Illegitimate

The main character refers to her mother as “abuela.” I would not recommend this book, as I believe it is poorly researched.

65 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Shane
  • 2020-01-28

Get ready to rethink your opinion!<br /><br />

I don't write a lot of reviews because I listen to a couple of audiobooks a week. Sometimes they all run together but hold on to your hat with this one! I've always had pretty strong opinions about migrants but this really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me rethink. Put yourself in the lives of these people and think how you might react. What would you?? No spoilers here, I'll just say read this with an open mind...

64 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joy
  • 2020-01-24

A must read

While the characters in this story eluded to and endured many unpleasant and life changing events, I feel that this story was maybe a little sugar coated. No - not the sticky sweet sort, just not digging into the nasty underbelly of some of the events. Not that I think that was a bad thing or maybe even necessary. There was a lot of information that needed to be touched on and the author did an excellent job in covering so many reasons, possibilities and realities. I appreciated following characters who were good people but needed to leave, I appreciated reading about the bad apple sort who were part of the story and I appreciated the people who opened up their hearts, food and shelter to those in need.
I think this is a must read for everyone and especially to those who think we should close our borders to all. We should remember that our nation is a nation built on immigrants and no matter the race, color or religion, you and your forefathers came from somewhere else and undoubtedly suffered their share of discrimination and hardship. My guess is most of them were not criminals just people looking for a better life.
My thoughts are getting political so I'm going to stop now. In the end, this is a good heart warming story.

58 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Deborah
  • 2020-01-25

Amazing!

This book is great, for so many reasons. Yes, you have to get over the fact that Jeanine Cummins is not Mexican, and that she is not an immigrant, but she is human and therefore able to make connections and move you with her words. The amount of details, is shocking. All her characters are relatable, and throughout the book their pain becomes our pain, their joy, our joy. It’s a book filled with raw emotions, and you can’t help but keep listing, and cheering those characters on.

46 people found this helpful