It was Friday, August 15th, 1997. The night the girls arrived. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to Baltimore to two families who have no more in common than this. First, there are the Donaldsons, decent Brad and homespun, tenacious Bitsy (with her 'more organic than thou' airs, who believes fervently that life can always be improved), two full ...
It was Friday, August 15th, 1997. The night the girls arrived. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to Baltimore to two families who have no more in common than this. First, there are the Donaldsons, decent Brad and homespun, tenacious Bitsy (with her 'more organic than thou' airs, who believes fervently that life can always be improved), two full sets of grandparents and a host of big-boned, confident relatives, taking delivery with characteristic American razzmatazz. Then there are the Yazdans, pretty, nervous Ziba (her family 'only one generation removed from the bazaar') and carefully assimilated Sami, with his elegant, elusive Iranian-born widowed mother Maryam, the grandmother-to-be, receiving their little bundle with wondering discretion. Every year, on the anniversary of 'Arrival Day', their two extended families celebrate together, with more and more elaborately competitive parties, as tiny, delicate Susan, wholesome, stocky Jin-ho, and later, her new little sister Xiu-Mei, take roots, become American...While Maryam, the optimistic pessimist, confident that if things go wrong - as well they may - she will manage as she has before, contrarily preserves her 'outsider' status, as if to prove that, despite her passport, she is only a guest in this bewildering country. Full of achingly hilarious moments (Xiu-Mei's 'pacifier' party is worthy of 'The Simpsons') and toe-curling misunderstandings, "Digging to America" is a novel with a deceptively small domestic canvas, and subtly large themes - it's about belonging and otherness, about insiders and outsiders, pride and prejudice, young love and unexpected old love, families and the impossibility of ever getting it right, and about striving for connection and goodness against all the odds...And, the end catches you by the throat, ambushes your emotions when you least expect it, as only Tyler can.
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Felt like I was in the story. The characters were so real. We have all encountered a Bitsy or Dave, etc.
Would definitely recommend this book.
May 8, 2008
A quick read, this sweet little novel concerns two Baltimore families who both receive their adopted baby girls from Korea on the same day. They forge a connection, which is traced through both families over a period of about six years as the girls grow up and their parents and grandparents find themselves coming together and drifting apart in unpredictable ways.
One of the families is Iranian-American, and much time is spent meditating on the meaning of "being American." Differences in parenting styles, familial relationships, and cultural identity are also depicted. For the most part, I liked the book, but there's unequal character development here. The Iranian family is pretty much defined by that one characteristic, while the other mother basically devolves into a cartoon of the stereotypical pushy, overprotective mom ("You put your baby in a playpen??!!").
The book was alright, and it was a quick read, so even though there's not a lot to recommend it, it wasn't time wasted.
Jul 8, 2007
Wonderful take on family dynamics
I was reluctant to read this book because the premise seemed a bit cloying and forced, but I quickly found myself drawn in to the psychological and social worlds of the characters.
May 23, 2007
A very enjoyable book!
I've read quite a few of Ann Tyler's books and this is one of her most enjoyable. The characters are very believable , the plot develops at just the right pace, I could all but see the Yazdans and the Donaldsons right before my eyes. Also ,from a standpoint of an immigrant ,not from Iran and not to the US , her observations on some of the relevant issues are very accurate and insightful. I highly recommend this book.
Apr 4, 2007
Definately not Tyler's best work. The story line was a good one but the characters, setting and plot never developed into anything. Readers in our bookclub voted this one a C-. Expected more from this usually wonderful writer
Publishers Weekly, 2006-09-04 Blair Brown is one of those rare performers who can capture an author's voice to perfection. She's had plenty of practice performing audiobooks, including Linda Fairstein's Death Dance. Her vibrant reading of Digging manifests her outstanding talent as she moves lightly and briskly through the narrative, pausing ever so slightly before Tyler's clever punch lines for added effect. Brown makes this wry satire about the adoption of foreign babies so laugh-out-loud funny that standup comics could study her timing. Both adults and children are played to perfection. Brown's enactment of Iranian immigrant Maryam Yazdan and Ziba, her daughter-in-law, is amazing in her accurate reproduction of the soft and liquid Farsi vowels. In contrast, American-born Sami, Maryam's son, speaks like the prototypical Easterner. Brown remembers that the children of immigrants sound like their peers, not their parents. This hilarious audiobook actually improves a fine novel. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 27). (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-02-27 Tyler (Breathing Lessons) encompasses the collision of cultures without losing her sharp focus on the daily dramas of modern family life in her 17th novel. When Bitsy and Brad Donaldson and Sami and Ziba Yazdan both adopt Korean infant girls, their chance encounter at the Baltimore airport the day their daughters arrive marks the start of a long, intense if sometimes awkward friendship. Sami's mother, Maryam Yazdan, who carefully preserves her exotic "outsiderness" despite having emigrated from Iran almost 40 years earlier, is frequently perplexed by her son and daughter-in-law's ongoing relationship with the loud, opinionated, unapologetically American Donaldsons. When Bitsy's recently widowed father, Dave, endearingly falls in love with Maryam, she must come to terms with what it means to be part of a culture and a country. Stretching from the babies' arrival in 1997 until 2004, the novel is punctuated by each year's Arrival Party, a tradition manufactured and comically upheld by Bitsy; the annual festivities gradually reveal the families' evolving connections. Though the novel's perspective shifts among characters, Maryam is at the narrative and emotional heart of the touching, humorous story, as she reluctantly realizes that there may be a place in her heart for new friends, new loves and her new country after all. (May 9) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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