Digging to America – Anne Tyler

I’m so glad I’ve read Digging to America. I’d been resisting reading it because when I first heard about I just didn’t like the sound of it; I think what put me off were the names of some of the characters, particularly Bitsy who came over to me as a know-it-all bossy woman. It just shows you shouldn’ make snap judgements like that.

This book had me captivated right from the start, with the description of two contrasting families waiting at Baltimore Airport for the arrival of two Korean babies they have adopted. The story develops as the two girls, Jo-Hin and Susan (originally Sooki) are integrated into their families – one American, the Donaldsons, outgoing and confident and the other the Yazdans, American/Iranian, reserved and restrained. Each year they have a party on ‘Arrival Day’- and it is through these parties as well as in their everyday lives that the contrast between the two families is revealed and how they are gradually brought to a greater understanding and appreciation.

There are a number of themes running through the book as well as the cultural differences between the families – what it means to be American, being one. But it’s not just specific to America. There are universal issues such as not being able to have a child; being an outsider or a foreigner, or being different; illness and death; growing old; family relationships between the generations, in-laws and the extended family; traditions, pride and independence; and in particular friendship. Even though it was a quick read, there is so much in this brilliant book, giving insight into human nature that I think it will stay with me for a long time. I shall certainly be looking for more books by Anne Tyler.

By the way, Baltimore is also, coincidentally, the setting for The Poe Shadow, which I had to stop reading once I started to read Digging to America.

4 thoughts on “Digging to America – Anne Tyler”

  1. I have been like you–I have heard good things about the book, but I can’t quite make myself pick it up to read. Maybe I will now that it is out in paper, plus I really should read something by Anne Tyler!

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  2. I have read other books by Anne Tyler, but this is the first one that I’ve really enjoyed and I only picked it up because it was on display in the library!

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  3. Yes, I’ve only just got round to reading this as well and have loved it. The only other Tyler I’ve read is ‘The Patchwork Planet’ and I enjoyed that too, so I really ought to look out some more.

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  4. I like some Anne Tyler, and not others so much. My very most favorite is Back When We Were Grownups. I listen to the unabridged audio every year I love it so much. I wasn’t so wild for Digging to America. This is what I wrote in my reading journal: Fiction B+I took a fair amount of time deciding how I would grade this book, which is indicative of my whole Anne Tyler experience. I like some books, I love some, and I don’t care for some. There were parts of this book I loved and other parts I couldn’t wait to end. I liked some characters and felt they were well written and believable, and other characters were never “real” to me. There was a whole section that was plain silly and useless, I felt. But still, I read her. Still, I mostly finish her books. They draw me even when I am not completely thrilled by the reading experience. The only one I deem perfect is Back When We Were Grownups.

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