In the High Peaks

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Internet Down Since Saturday; Read American Dirt--A Must Read

We had a sharp cold front blast its way through Saturday late afternoon with higher wind gusts than forecast. I didn't think it was bad enough for us to lose power and internet, but we did. It's because we have more trees than anything else. And branches and trees love to topple on power lines. It is one of their favorite sports. 
The only reason I'm mentioning it is that we  have only had internet service returned yesterday, Tuesday. And I always feel badly because this situation makes me disappear from sight, and makes me unable to post comments on everyone's "Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times" posts.
At the time we lost power I was at the absolute climax of The Dry by Jane Harper, a novel I highly recommend to crime and mystery lovers. This one, and actually all of Harper's novels are set in Australia. Although Harper is from the UK, she moved to Melbourne, Australia, about 15-18 years ago. She was (is) a journalist, and The Dry was her debut novel, and has been very highly acclaimed. Do follow the link if you're interested in an interview with Jane Harper about The Dry.  I've been reading it as an ebook borrowed from the New York Public Library, but what I didn't know was that in order to read their ebooks, I need to have a live internet connection. So it was so painful to be at the jaw-breaking, cliff-hanging moment, and TO BE SET ADRIFT! FOR DAYS!  Oh, well. What can you do?
I immediately dug into American Dirt, the runaway bestseller by Jeanine Cummins. More than six months after publication, it's still in the top 5 of the fiction hardcover bestseller list. It's very fast-moving, but dense--nearly 400 pages, and I've been reading 100 pages a day, which is quite a lot, but it is so riveting, so compelling, that no other activity or task in the house or outdoors can compare.
Jeanine Cummins researched the background for this book for five years. It's the story of a family in Acapulco, upper-middle-class. Lydia owns her own bookstore. Her husband is a prominent journalist. But due to the cartel, Los Jardinistas, which has all but wiped out the tourist business and brought the city to its knees, Lydia finds that she alone must flee with her young son after the cartel slaughters her husband and her entire extended family. (No spoiler here. This occurs in the first few pages.) She must vanish. To save her life and her son's she must disappear herself. Completely. This novel traces her transformation from well-off Mexican citizen to Mexican migrant with no status, fleeing to the north, along with migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, to the United States, with a mere change of clothes and a bit of money. This path is fraught with a multitude of dangers that may end their journey and their lives at any moment.
I finished reading this novel today, Wednesday, and I must say that it is among the most memorable reading experiences of my life. This novel illuminates fathoms more about the migrant experience than you will ever pick up from the progressive news stations.
And most of all, what is so clear is that Mexico as a nation is disintegrating. And so goes Central America, even the supposedly stable Guatemala, and now Costa Rica. And where on Earth has the United States been, what has the U.S. been doing for decades, for decades upon decades, while this decay of governmental responsibility in Mexico and southward has been growing like a metastasized cancer? Then, too, where is our partner Canada? Has it, too, dropped out of North America? Where Mexico goes, I believe, is exactly where we will all go ultimately. A border wall hastens our fall. Much has been written about how the U.S. government and U.S. corporations sanction and do business with the Mexican cartels, as the only way to successfully "make money" to the south. We are in so, so deep.  
I urge every American and Canadian to read this novel. I think I can safely say that you will not regret spending your time on a single page. I believe American Dirt will appeal to readers in every country in the world that has an ongoing refugee and migrant crisis in progress.


  1. I am glad that American Dirt is selling well and I am glad to hear that it was so good. I want to read it. I think that the controversy around its publication was terribly unfounded.

    I am glad that you got your internet back.

    1. Hi Brian,
      Oh, yeah, it's so compelling and enlightening. Although I know the FACTS of what migrants face coming north, it's not the same as having a tapestry of the truths laid out before you in fiction. It was only because of Cummins's extensive research that I read it.
      And I know what you mean about that controversy. I agree with you totally about that. I think you will find reading it to be a moving experience.
      Thanks--internet's back, for the time being anyway. We do tend to lose it, so if I drop out of sight for a while, that's it.

  2. I read quite a lot about the American Dirt controversy on Sam's blog so it's very interesting to hear your take on it. I remember reading an article a few years ago about how Mexico was a lawless, failing state with all the drug cartels and so forth. I thought things had improved but it seems not. It's very worrying. Once the libraries start to reopen I'll see if I can get hold of this.

    Sorry to hear you lost the internet, but pleased it's back. Saturday to Tuesday is quite a while to be without it.

    1. Hi Cath,
      I do hope you'll be able to read it, Cath. I think that you would find it riveting and incredibly relevant for our times, and informative.
      Yes, Mexico is in a terrible state these days, and this administration has only thrown gasoline on the flames that scorch that country.
      And thanks for your sympathy about our internet. You know, there is another option for us. It's satellite internet. But the problem is we'd like to continue to have a landline phone, and because of the costs of each, it hasn't seemed feasible. Not to mention the fact that the satellite dish would be placed in our back field, and Ken always says, "Who wants to go waist-deep in snow to wipe the snow off the satellite dish?" We look at Sandy. Just joking, we wish we could train her to do it! But I think we're going to be coming around to making the switch eventually.

  3. How frustrating to be enjoying a book and then not able to read it! Hopefully you get to finish it soon.

    1. Hi Marg,
      Yes--part of what made it so perplexing was I didn't know that when I borrow an ebook, it doesn't download onto my tablet. I need to be connected. Once that shock was over (!), I was okay. But it did ruin the book ending for me, which really in the global scheme of things is trivial, really.
      Have you been reading Jane Harper's novels, I wonder?

  4. I have read a couple Jane Harpers; well done but very bleak. I feel kind of depressed at the end and while that may sound unavoidable as a mystery/suspense reader, one could argue that usually by the conclusion "right" or justice has been restored, which is uplifting or should be.

    I know you are an Elin Hilderbrand fan. I was interested to see one of my local bookstores is not simply doing an online event with her but an online ticketed event where one buys the book for $30 plus shipping. I guess I would do that if it were one of my favorite authors but part of the fun is *meeting* the author, although the book will be autographed.

    1. You know, I agree with you that I feel a bit empty and down-hearted at the end of her books. You're right: Justice is restored, but human lives that are lost can't be.
      I would love to see an online or televised interview with Elin Hilderbrand, but in general, I don't attend author events--partly because they are so far away, and partly because I'm more interested in how they speak to me through their books. BUT, that said, I wish I had the opportunity to ask lots of my favorite authors questions, most especially about the setting they choose and what they mean to them.

  5. Sorry about your power / internet loss. My daughter lives about 25 min from us and we got nothing and she lost power last week.

    I loved American Dirt as well, I know it's controversial but, I don't get involved in all the outside noise, if I want to read a book, I read it.

  6. I had missed your posts and am glad the internet is back for you. Good to hear that you liked American Dirt. I will wait a while until it comes down in price before I try it.

  7. Hi Diane,
    I'm so glad you loved American Dirt. The controversy about it was maddeningly pointless, I thought. I think you're right to accept the book on its own terms and move forward.
    Thanks for your thoughts about my internet losses over the past month. But you know, if the INTERNET were all-important and all-crucial, I wouldn't live here, so I must take the good with the bad. The company that gives us phone service and internet is one that services Rural America. And frankly, they are terrible, but at least we have something, most of the time.