Presented by : Ms Sheena Sahani
Book Reviewed : American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Review by – Arun Thomas
American Dirt is a novel about a journey undertaken by Lydia Perez and her 8 year old son Luca from Acapulco, Mexico to the USA. They are forced to flee as drug cartel honcho Javier Fuentes kills not only her husband Sebastian but also 15 more of her close relatives, during a celebration, because Sebastian, a journalist had written an expose on Javier. Only Lydia and Luca managed to escape the dreaded killing spree as they were inside the house (as Luca had wanted to use the washroom) when the massacre occurred.
Lydia and Luca could no longer live in Acapulco and hence decided to move to USA, but in absence of any identification papers on them they could only get into USA by an illegal route with the help of many strangers they met enroute, some of whom had to be paid and some who helped out of the goodness of their heart.
Incidently, Javier had also fallen in love with Lydia as he had met her during one of his visits to her Book Shop and they had had many interactions thereafter – at which time neither did Lydia realise who he was nor did Javier know that Sebastian was her husband.
Thus, Javier had an ulterior motive to find her after she escaped from Acapulco – hence Lydia and Luca’s journey is fraught with danger as the drug cartel had many supporters ( drug dealers/ police/ others who were on their payroll) who were desperately on the look out for them.
Lydia meets two young girls Soledad and Rebeka during her journey and befriends them as they too were on a similar escapade ( due to various other reasons ). The book describes various situations and how they were dealt with and also how finally all 4 of them ( Lydia, Luca, Soledad and Rebeka ) finally manage to enter USA illegally and also how Luca, Soledad and Rebeka manage to join schools there.
The novel leaves immense scope for a sequel as many loose ends are not tied up when it ends.
Ms Sheena handled the presentation beautifully with not only her wonderful articulate lucid expression but also with a rivetting slide show which captured almost every scene as she spoke about them. Each slide was well thought of, colourful and captured the essence of what was being spoken / described and the combination gave rise to a fantastic presentation. Kudos to Ms Sheena!
Ms Sheena also gave her own view point about the book ( though it was “unputdownable” once she started reading it ) that she felt the development of Javier was a little unbelievable as he had so much time to visit Lydia’s Book Shop and thereafter persue Lydia romantically even though he must have had so many other things to do as a drug cartel boss. Also that Lydia was probably a little naïve to have married Sebastian knowing he was a journalist constantly writing and exposing drug cartels. She is also expecting a sequel to this novel by the author.
Questions at the end of the session were not many ( probably due to low attendance and / or not many having read the book ) but Ms Sheena was again at her expressive best while answering the questions to the satisfaction of those who asked.
All in all a book review worth attending and appreciating.
- Arun Thomas