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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A small book with big questions
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...
Published on 20 Jun 2007 by Cheshire Booklover

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read
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...
Published on 21 Dec 2008 by K. Leversuch


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A small book with big questions, 20 Jun 2007
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
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
By 
A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
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 "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look into the concept of being 'foreign', 1 July 2007
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read, 21 Dec 2008
By 
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
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.

7/10
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 23 Aug 2007
By 
B. Kinnari - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
As an adoptive parent of two children born in Korea, and as a foreigner living abroad myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My sister in law, a native in the country in which I have lived for the past fifteen years, and who has never been a long-term foreign citizen anywhere, did not understand this book. She was almost apologetic when she loaned it to me, but she thought I would like it because of the two characters who were adopted from Korea. I, on the other hand, loved Digging to America from cover to cover.

When Marjam said that she will always be a foreigner--both at "home" in Iran, as well as in the USA--I knew I had found an author who understood what it is really like to be transplanted. That it involved Korean adoption seemed to be a secondary theme.

If a person doesn't care for this book, it will be because they either lack the empathy to understand what it's like to be a foreigner in a different culture, or because they believed it to be a book about Korean adoption when it's really about something much deeper than that.

A must read for anybody who has struggled with their identity as a result of having changed countries and cultures.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tyler on top form, 7 Aug 2007
By 
Mr. S. Miller "Page Turner" (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
Reading her books you get the impression that Anne Tyler could watch a couple from a distance and know by their gestures what they were saying to one another. Many great novelists can do that. Where Tyler stands out is that she would also know why they there were saying what they were saying even, and here's the best bit, if the couple lacked the same insight themselves.

She uses this gift to bring to life the most intriguing nuances from the most routine of domestic encounters and in "Digging to America" she proves these powers are undiminished. That alone would commend the novel, but Tyler does not stop there. She develops a convincing meditation on the many facets of ethnic integration alternately through the poignant awakenings of her Iranian heroine Maryam who has taken a generation to adapt to America, neatly counter-pointed against the first steps of two adopted Korean babies one of whom is Maryam's first Grand-child.

Her characters also cope with bereavement and a little serious illness, and yet the light touch that makes her novels and observations so accessible does not desert her.

Critics rave about this author for a reason. Discover for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Won't Regret It, 11 Jun 2006
This review is from: Digging to America (Hardcover)
The first time I read an Anne Tyler novel (The Accidental Tourist), I'd heard so much about her that I found myself waiting to be impressed. That was a mistake, because if you're looking for something showy, something that proclaims itself to be 'literature', you won't find it. I finished the novel thinking 'is that IT?'; wondering what all the fuss was about. Then over the next couple of weeks pieces of it came back to me periodically, and I realised I felt a huge nostalgia for the characters and situations, and gradually it dawned on me that the structure of this apparently free-floating novel was absolutely flawless. I wasn't too proud to admit the error of my ways, and have gained immeasurable pleasure from Anne Tyler's novels since.

Digging to America is no exception: the observations and perspectives offered are endlessly fascinating, and the ways that 9/11 has wrought change in the US are subtly evoked. The ways that people from different cultures, and from the same families, tiptoe around each other in the daily process of sharing space and time, are beautifully observed. This is a generous and compassionate novel, and you could hardly spend the time it takes to read it doing anything more worthwhile.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of her best, but worth reading if you have the time, 28 July 2009
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
I'm a big fan of Anne Tyler's finely-crafted observations about everyday life around Baltimore, but this recent addition to her long list of titles isn't one of her best. Towards the end of the book she writes (about one of the many main characters): 'She finished reading a novel she had started the evening before, even though she had trouble remembering the beginning and she wasn't all that interested in the end.'

And that is exactly the problem I had with this book: it just isn't very interesting. I never really cared what happened to anybody, which is perhaps just as well because very little does happen. And that cover blurb: 'Achingly truthful (does that even make sense?) ... achingly funny (no way: I may have sniggered once or twice in the 300-plus pages) ... so sad (not particularly). Isn't it about time these cover blurbs conformed to some kind of advertising standard?

Anne Tyler's speciality is capturing the little details that make people what they are, in drawing characters and reminding us what it means to be human. She writes good books about very ordinary situations, which is why she's one of the best writers around today. To write about everyday life and still keep us entertained is a rare skill indeed, but unfortunately this book just isn't entertaining enough. If you want to catch her at her best, I'd recommend something from earlier in her long career, such as Earthly Possessions or The Accidental Tourist.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Anne Tyler, 29 April 2007
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Digging to America (Paperback)
One day a plane brings two baby Korean girls to Baltimore, to be adopted by two families, Brad and Bitsy Donaldsons and the Iranian-Americans Sami and Ziba Yazdan. The two families become friends and meet on a regular basis, especially on the anniversary of the babies' arrival, when the families take it in turn to host each other. The Donaldsons think of themselves as progressive Americans who want to respect their little girl's Korean ancestry, keep her Korean name of Jin-Ho and dress her in Korean-style clothes, and they think it is not quite right that the Yazdans should have given their little girl an English name, Susan. They regard the Yazdans as Iranians. The women in the Yazdan family, timid Ziba and her characterful mother-in-law Maryam, have certainly kept some Iranian ways of thinking, but find it tiresome that the Donaldsons constantly allude to or enquire about their Iranian traditions. As for Sami, he was born in the United States; he has a thoroughly American life-style, but is also quite capable of mocking Americans ways from an outsider's point of view. So there is always a little tension on the Yazdan side whenever the two families meet.

The Donaldsons also adopt a second little baby girl, this time from China, and there is a drawn-out account of how Bitsy is trying to wean her from her pacifiers. I don't think the novel really needed Xiu-Mei and it would have been more organic without her. I also expected that the two little Korean girls might have some identity problems; but at the end of the book they are only about six or seven years old, too young perhaps to have any such problems (except that Jin-Ho now calls herself Jo). Instead, the novel centres increasingly on Bitsy's widowed father Dave (a touching portrait) and on Maryam, the most subtly drawn character in the book. The Donaldsons, though tactless (especially Bitsy) are so well-meaning, so warm and so sociable that Ziba and Sami feel increasingly more comfortable in their world; but Maryam always feels more of an outsider, resists being drawn in, and puzzles the Donaldsons.

As always, it is a delight to read a book by Anne Tyler: she is humorous, compassionate, has an observant eye for the details of daily life and an acute ear for dialogue. She portrays the Donaldson type of American to perfection; and one suspects that her insight into Iranian-Americans must come from personal knowledge.
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Digging to America
Digging to America by Anne Tyler (Paperback - 19 April 2007)
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