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Digging to Americaby Anne Tyler
"With her 17th novel, Tyler has delivered something startlingly fresh while retaining everything we love about her work. Digging to America delivers the blithely insular, suburban Baltimore characters we expect, but it's a bait-and-switch move....Her success at portraying culture clash and the complex longings and resentments of those new to America confirms what we knew, or should have known, all along: There's nothing small about Tyler's world, nothing precious about her attention to the hopes and fears of ordinary people." Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
"[S]tupendously wise and very funny....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." Elizabeth Judd, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
In what is perhaps her richest and most deeply searching novel, Anne Tyler gives us a story about what it is to be an American, and about Maryam Yazdan, who after thirty-five years in this country must finally come to terms with her "outsiderness."
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 American wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate with an "arrival party," an event that is repeated every year as the two families become more deeply intertwined.
Even independent-minded Maryam is drawn in. But only up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by one of the Donaldson clan, a good-hearted man of her vintage, recently widowed and still recovering from his wife's death, suddenly all the values she cherishes — her traditions, her privacy, her otherness — are threatened. Somehow this big American takes up so much space that the orderly boundaries of her life feel invaded.
A luminous novel brimming with subtle, funny, and tender observations that cast a penetrating light on the American way as seen from two perspectives, those who are born here and those who are still struggling to fit in.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Ms. Tyler deserves her reputation as a master of the fine threads of human relationships. The barely registered slights, fleeting intuitions and shivers of pity that pass between these characters are a pleasure to behold." The Wall Street Journal
"Anne Tyler has written 17 novels and you only wish for more. Her newest, Digging to America, is wonderfully wry, yet intimately involving. There's a definite sense of loss when it's over and done." New York Daily News
"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 (Starred Review)
"At a time when discussions of immigration and citizenship have become increasingly fraught, Tyler's Digging to America offers tranquil insight by telling one immigration story and telling it well." Rocky Mountain News
"[A] compelling novel. Anyone can tell a story, but few writers allow us to identify with their 'just folks' characters, and, like Tyler, let us revel in the day-to-day, often repetitive activities that are at the heart of being a family member and a friend." USA Today
"Digging to America is studded with lovely observations....Tyler has cast her abiding theme — the art of surviving among shifting, challenging circumstances — in a story more anchored in a specific time than any previous work." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A touching, well-crafted tale of friendship, families, and what it means to be an American. Recommended." Library Journal
"If you plan to soak up a few rays while reading [Digging to America], liberally apply the sunscreen before you start the 277-page book. Otherwise, you might find yourself caught up in her 17th novel and not want to stop to slather up again." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Once again, this wise and warm-hearted author delves beneath the surface of ordinary Americans to find that there are no ordinary Americans." Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis in 1941 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. This is Anne Tyler's seventeenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore.
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