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Digging to America [Hardcover]

Anne Tyler
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 May 2006
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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070118034X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701180348
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 656,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Breathing Lessons and other bestselling novels, including The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage and Digging to America. In 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as 'the greatest novelist writing in English'. Anne Tyler lives in Baltimore where her novels are set.

Product Description


"A wonderfully funny, acutely observant and very moving story from Anne Tyler" -- Supernanny

"Anne Tyler is at her best in Digging to America’. This is a witty, imaginative exploration ..." -- Metro Thursday rvd by Nina Caplan

"Digging to America is another superb novel, warm-hearted and funny…" -- The Spectator: Caroline Moore

"The novel has a knock-out ending… As ever, Anne Tyler has the ability to keep you guessing." -- The Saturday Herald: Harry Reid

"Written with wonderful insight and slow-burn humour…it’s rich with family entanglements and allegiances" -- Good Housekeeping.

"Wry, poignant and achingly funny" -- Eve

"so achingly truthful, so achingly funny, so sad and so real that you can only marvel..." -- Mail on Friday rvd by Elizabeth Buchan

"…a pure storyteller…Tyler’s fiction has always danced dangerously close to being a paean to the so-called simple life." -- Scotland on Sunday

We love Digging to America "A small exquisitiely painted canvas. Don’t miss" -- Woman & Home

`comically touching saga' -- Independent Christmas Books:

Book Description

Another gem from the incomparable Anne Tyler, sparkling with diamond-sharp wit and observation, glowing with the warmth of her characters' multifaceted, flawed, resilient humanity --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A small book with big questions 20 Jun 2007
I love Anne Tyler's work. She writes about the ordinary and every day events that we take so much for granted, but in a way that makes us really think about and question what is happening. This book is no exception. The main event is more unusual than in her other books, as it centres around the adoption of two Korean girls by two very different families. Although they apparently have little in common other than the adoptions, the families meet each year to celebrate the day that their daughters arrived in the USA and into their lives. This apparently simple storyline raises much bigger questions and makes the reader think about things such as how do we create our national identity? What is a family? And why had I never thought to hold a 'raking party' to clear my garden in the autumn (seriously, it's a great idea!) The characters are, as always in Tyler's books, well-drawn and each is given an opportunity to tell part of the story through their own eyes. A really charming book that will stay with you long after you finish it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Digging deep into family life 1 May 2007
I am a great fan of Anne Tyler love her characterisation and her meandering story-lines. While I would not say this is her best novel, it is still worth reading, although frankly, nothing much happens in it. The novel follows the course over six or seven years of two families, both of whom adopt a Korean baby. The families meet once a year for an "Arrival Party" which celebrates the day they were united with their babies at Baltimore airport.

One of the families is typically American, with all its sentimentality and its big-hearted generosity. The other family is Iranian and keeps alive the traditions of their home-land through many extended family feasts and celebrations. In typical Tyler-fashion, we see the changes brought to both families by their encounters at various social gatherings, and we see how changes over the years affect them both deeply. I appreciated the depiction of Maryam and Dave, bereaved grand-parents who dance around each other despite their obvious incompatibilities. Strangely, the Korean infants are not the most important part of the story-line, but more a catalyst for other encounters among the adults.

As always, Tyler hits the emotional buttons, and some scenes are touching beyond the reach of other authors. I particularly enjoyed the attempts of one mother to wean her second adopted child away from a baby's dummy (pacifiers), by setting up an elaborate party during which the dummies were to be launched off into the blue tied to helium balloons, with a hilarious outcome, also rich with pathos.

Tyler's characters breathe humanity, whether the good sides or the bad, and it is her non-judgemental acceptance of people's failings and foibles which characterise this and all her novels. I suppose after her previous novel, The Amateur Marriage, this book is a little more light-weight, but for Tyler's fans, it still delivers the home-spun Baltimore family experience which beguiled so many readers of her previous books.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gentle paced story of family and belonging 18 Sep 2007
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Fans of Anne Tyler will not be disappointed by this nicely written story of family and culture. As with all of her novels, the cheif theme is family, no matter how unconventional, and it has the same gentle pace and likeable characters.

It's also a story about race and fitting in with a different culture. Unlike so many of the self-consciously multicultural novels on offer at present, Digging to America does this subtly and within the wider context of the need for belonging and the importance of family and friends. It doesn't offer easy answers or overdo it. Instead it explores an important contemporary issue in a careful, non-aggressive way, whilst still telling an absorbing and satisfying story.

The characters quickly feel like old friends, and Tyler successfully characterises a wide range of different personalities. From All-American ultra-PC parents Brad and Bitsy to the reserved Iranian immigrant Maryam, to Jin-Ho and Susan, the very different Korean babies brought to the USA for adoption, all are portrayed realistically and sympathetically.

I found the book occasionally a little corny, especially the love story element, but not enough to spoil the overall effect. It's a gentle paced story and maybe not too memorable, but it's a still well worth reading and likely to be enjoyed. However, if you like lots of action, it's probably not going to appeal.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Well, I'll come clean and say that I'm not really a great fan of Anne Tyler.

I have previously read 'The Accidental Tourist' and 'Back When We Were Grownups' and found both to have interesting character studies but not a lot else.

'Digging to America' was definitely along the same vein.

I loved the premise of the book - the meeting of two families with very different backgrounds, while both were collecting adopted Korean babies at the airport. Much was also made of the different ethnic origins of the people involved. I was, however, frustrated by the continuous round of parties and celebrations, particularly in the first half of the book, and also by the cast of thousands in the two extended families - a couple of family trees would have been a great help.

The emphasis of the book changes throughout. In the early stages it appears to be a book about the two adopted children. This soon moves to concentrate on the adoptive parents and the bond formed between the two families, ending up with the relationship between the grandparents.

I live in Dubai, surrounded by a melting pot of different cultures and for me the strong part of this book was the study of the extent to which 'foreigners', in this case, Iranians, can, or even want to adopt the ways of their new country. The book seems to suggest that this is a very personal decision and that everyone approaches the problem differently.

Better than the other two Anne Tyler books I've read, but I'd like a stronger story line before I could consider becoming a fan.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Blended cultures in America
I love this book it illustrates an insight into the wonders of life in America. The explanation of the blended cultures is truly wonderful. Read more
Published 2 months ago by kate hobson
5.0 out of 5 stars Anny Tyler.
Bought "used" and pleased with the book. I haven't read this one YET!!!!! But looking forward to another great read.
Published 8 months ago by Tilly
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of her better novels
I'm a big fan of Anne Tyler and I thought that the synopsis of this book - two couples from Baltimore, one all-American and one of Iranian decent, adopting baby girls from Korea -... Read more
Published 8 months ago by G. E. Harrison
2.0 out of 5 stars Cross culturalism
This was a very disappointing book as it failed to address cross cultural adoption in more than a superficial way. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ferdinand
5.0 out of 5 stars The best in a long time
I really enjoyed this book. In it Anne Tyler explores an immigrant family's experience of adoption parallelling the more familiar all American family experience. Read more
Published 17 months ago by A. Browne
3.0 out of 5 stars 'about insiders and outsiders, pride and prejudice, families and the...
I found this a very readable book: the account of the all-American Donaldsons and the Iranian Yazdans who each adopt a Korean baby. Read more
Published 23 months ago by sally tarbox
1.0 out of 5 stars I hated it.
I read this as part of a local book club and can honestly say it's the worst book we have read so far. It was boring, not very well written and pointless. Read more
Published on 10 Sep 2012 by C. Pearson
3.0 out of 5 stars Groundhog Day
This is a bit like 'Groundhog Day'. We experience the same event - Arrival Day - over and over again throughout the years, watching how the guests change and their lives and... Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2012 by Helen Laycock
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing really happens and yet it's gripping!
I found this book quite strange. It's not the type of thing I would usually read but I was at my parent's and needed something to read so picked it up off the bookshelf. Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2012 by hannah
3.0 out of 5 stars One for Tyler fans
I love Anne Tyler's quietly observant style of writing and for a long time I've considered her one of my favourite authors. Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2011 by Julia Flyte
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