Radio 2 Book Club - American Dirt

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The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be American Dirt, the powerful new novel by Jeanine Cummins. The book was released on 21 January and Jeanine will be talking to Jo on Monday 24 February.

We have the chance for you to win 10 copies of this fantastic novel for your reading group! Please enter by Friday 28 February.

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We have an exclusive extract available for you to read (warning – strong scenes). We also have some discussion questions for your group to use.

American Dirt

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.

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved American Dirt – here are some of their comments:

“I absolutely loved this book and found it utterly thrilling. The characters are well-drawn and the plot is nicely paced. It’s so tense in parts that on several occasions I caught myself with hunched shoulders, steeling myself for what might come next! The flashbacks to Lydia’s life in Acapulco are as absorbing as her present-day flight to the USA with her son. The scenes of brutality in the book – and there are several – are generally handled with subtlety rather than being graphic. Everything is left to your imagination, which makes them all the more disturbing. It’s a fantastic story of love, loss, identity and the refugee experience and I can’t say enough good things about it.”

“This is a superb book which I cannot recommend enough. Lydia and her young son Luca are forced to flee their home in Mexico when their entire family is killed by Los Jardineros – one of the infamous drug cartels. Jumping from bridges on to trains, they weave their way across the country with the ultimate aim of the reaching the US border, but their journey is dangerous and has you on the edge of your seat. The police and officials are corrupt, and they live in fear of the cartel catching up with them. Along their way they meet others in a similar situation, but who can they trust? This is a book for now and brings the human story to the plight of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their lives. Tragic and breath-taking.”

“Absolutely gripping from start to finish! An innocent mother (Lydia) and her young son (Luca) desperately and illegally attempt to enter the US from Mexico whilst fleeing from a cartel that just happens to be run by her ‘friend’ Javier (known as La Lechuza), the most charming and dangerous man she’s ever met. The action rarely lets up and at times the tension becomes almost unbearable. A very timely read that highlights the plight of the migrant and the harsh realities they face on both sides of the border. An absolute ‘must read’!”

About the author

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Jeanine Cummins is the author of three previous books; novels The Outside Boy and The Crooked Branch and one true crime work, A Rip in Heaven. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

A word from Jeanine

“It means so much to me that American Dirt has been chosen by the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. I’m thrilled to think that my book struck a chord with so many libraries and readers in the UK: thank you, and thank you to The Reading Agency. This is something I never imagined when I was writing the book!

American Dirt is a work of fiction, a story of one ordinary mama, and the powerful love that drives her across thousands of perilous miles in an effort to save her son. I wrote it in an effort to understand what compels ordinary people to venture away from their homelands, from danger to mortal danger. I hope that you will enjoy it, and I can’t wait to share it with BBC Radio 2 listeners, and with Jo.”

Get involved

Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 24 February to hear a live interview with Jeanine.

Have you read American Dirt? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #AmericanDirt, and you can also follow Jeanine.

You can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list. Planning to buy American Dirt for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You can join the Radio 2 Book Club Facebook group, and also follow Jo Whiley on Twitter.

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