Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport: the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam's fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the instant babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate: an "arrival party" that from then on is repeated every year as the two families become more and more deeply intertwined. Even Maryam is drawn in, up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by Bitsy Donaldson's recently widowed father, all the values she cherishes - her traditions, her privacy, her otherness - are suddenly threatened.
A luminous novel brimming with subtle, funny, and tender observations that immerse us in the challenges of both sides of the American story.
©2006 Anne Tyler; (P)2006 Random House Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House Inc.
"Digging to America succeeds on many levels - as a satire of millennial parenting, a tribute to autumn romances, and most important, an exploration of our risible (though poignant) attempts to welcome otherness into our midst." (Atlantic Monthly)
"Handling time with a light touch, Tyler creates many blissful moments of high emotion and keen humor while broaching hard truths about cultural differences, communication breakdowns, and family configurations. This deeply human tale of valiantly improvised lives is one of Tyler's best." (Booklist)
If you (or someone dear to you) has ever felt like a permanent outsider in another culture, you are sure to find this book fascinating. By coincidence, two families happen to meet at a Baltimore airport. They are both there for the same reason. Each is adopting a baby arriving on a flight from Korea. One family is mainstream American (the Donaldson-Dickensons) and embraces multiculturalism, even if somewhat clumsily and offensively at times. The other family (the Yazdans) are Iranian-American. The baby's grandmother, Maryam Yazdan, is attractive, stylish, and somewhat elusive. She, in particular, seems caught between trying to blend in and not wanting fully to blend in with aspects of American culture that might make some of us cringe. Each character in the story presents with a unique predicament around the theme of cultural transition: Maryam's son, born in America, but uncertain about Iranian customs; the two babies, each brought up aware of their Korean origins, but minimally interested in that fact; garrulous Bitsy Dickenson (or is it, Donaldson?) who embraces her child's Korean birth and welcomes the Yazdans' Iranian background with occasionally overbearing curiosity; etc. This is a warm, sometimes funny novel about all kinds of transitions, including growing up and growing old. Like most of Anne Tyler's writing, "Digging to America" is effortless to read (or listen to). She seems keenly to have observed her characters, rather than to have invented them. Blair Brown's reading is superb.
This was an enjoyable audiobook. Starts off in an airport, where two young American couples are meeting their adopted Korean baby girls for the first time. One couple is of Iranian descent while the other is very "American". Their chance meeting leads to annual reunions which eventually lead to a close friendship between the families. The book wanders through cultures, through life stories and through time, often going back and forth in an easy way which entertains and offers insight into the lives of the characters and into their cultural heritage. It's an easy listen, relaxing and good for a rainy weekend.
As a longtime fan of Anne Tyler, and a former 15 year resident of Baltimore, I found her latest volume her best in many years. With a light, observant style, she explores a variety of engaging themes: adoption, modern parenting, assimilation, cultural identity and American-Iranian culture. Her wry asides about Baltimore neighborhoods and middle class culture are always a treat. Blair Brown captures the Iranian phrasing and lilt beautifully too, so it's a pleasure to listen to.
As a lover of all of Anne Tyler's books I probably have a predisposition coming in but I felt this book was wonderful. The characters are so real and believable. Blair Brown's reading really makes the story come alive. I didn't want it to end.
When I read some of the reviews of this book, I wondered if the reviewers had listened to the same book I had. I enjoyed it as much as any of the other Anne Tyler books I've read/listened to. Blair Brown did an excellent job with the narration.
Interesting that this book generates such divergent reactions. I was one of the people who enjoyed it and found the characters and their day-to-day lives realistic and, in the end, touching. I recognize that, at times, it was a bit trite, but the struggle to fit in to a strange culture and to make real friendships with people across cultural lines was, for me, quite convincing. I also thought the narrator did an excellent job, including the names and words in Persian (not that I could judge their accuracy).
I read the other reviews and generally agree that the characters didn't become important to me but that if I were going through cultural changes, the book would probably mean a lot more.
I just wonder if Tyler's characters are sometime too real for me -- the normal stuff of daily life and relationships but not people who make me think or wonder about things. I loved the Accidental Tourist but that might have been because George Guidall narrated it exceptionally well.
Although it was OK, I found Digging to America disappointing when compared to other books by Ann Tyler such as A Slipping Down Life or Accidental Tourist. Her strength is the depth of her characters. You feel you know them personally. The characters in this book seemed shallower and although her stories are usually not as strong as her characters, this story was weaker than her norm to me.
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