59 pages 1 hour read

Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Chapters 1-3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

The book opens with the massacre of a Mexican family during a quinceañera celebration in Acapulco. Sixteen people are killed at the house belonging to Lydia’s mother, including Lydia’s husband, Sebastián and her 15-year-old niece, Yénifer. The only survivors are Lydia and her son, Luca, who narrowly misses being hit by a bullet as he uses the toilet. Lydia tackles Luca. He falls and splits his lip.

The two hide behind a shower wall while gunfire rings out around them. They overhear three sicarios looking for a man and a child (Sebastián and Luca). One of the killers takes a picture of a dead boy thinking it is Luca, but it is his nine-year-old cousin, Adrián.

The three men search the house. Lydia notices a drop of Luca’s blood on the bathroom floor. She leans out to wipe it up with her shirt sleeve, narrowly avoiding being seen by one of the killers. The man urinates and helps himself to the barbecued chicken cooking on the grill. After a period of silence, Lydia ducks out, leaving Luca alone in the bathroom. He recalls how his mother and grandmother bickered before the massacre. The chapter ends with Lydia calling the police.

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By Jeanine Cummins