Digging to America by Anne Tyler



Synopsis from Amazon:

Friday August 15th, 1997. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to Baltimore to two families with nothing in common. First there are the Donaldsons, decent Brad and homespun Bitsy and a host of relatives, taking delivery with characteristic American razzmatazz. Then there are the Yazdans, pretty, nervous Ziba and carefully assimilated Sami, with his elegant Iranian-born widowed mother Maryam, receiving their little bundle with wondering discretion.

Every year, on the anniversary of ‘Arrival Day’ the two families celebrate together, with increasingly elaborately competitive parties, as tiny, delicate Susan and wholesome, stocky Jin-ho, take roots and become American…

Full of achingly hilarious moments and toe-curling misunderstandings, Digging to America is about insiders and outsiders, pride and prejudice, young love and unexpected old love, families and the impossibility of ever getting it right…

I finished this book last night and still don’t really know what to make of it. I enjoyed the book but there were times when it was dull and because it centres mostly around the “Arrival Day Parties” a lot of time was skipped over and events missed out – like the death of a family member, and by the end I didn’t even know how old the girls were.

However, Tyler covers a lot of issues in the book, such as adoption, parenting, death, nationality and what links people and forms friendships. It was interesting to see the girl’s friendship develop over the years, and to see how that turned out, as well as the parents. I think Tyler successfully addressed the issue of nationality, and whether an immigrant can feel a citizen in a new country. She also seems to ask why people adopt and why they do it from foreign countries, and whether this makes them saviours in some ways. I think she writes in a way that this would be a good discussion book.

Another problem I had was there were too many characters, and a predictable storyline. When romance blossomed I wasn’t surprised and I struggled to remember who was who. Because of the book spanning so long and many events being missed out I felt no connection to the characters unfortunately and there isn’t a particular one that stands out in my mind as my favourite.

Overall it was a good read with a lot of depth in key issues such as nationality and adoption, but it isn’t my favourite book of the year.


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