Digging to America

ISBN: 0307263940
ISBN 13: 9780307263940
By: Anne Tyler

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Reader's Thoughts


I've had a couple of Anne Tyler novels on my shelf for over 20 years. However, I have never been able to get past the first few pages. There is something about the writing that is incredibly dull. At first I thought "Digging to America" was going to be another unread Anne Tyler but I persisted through the first chapter (the point at which I have normally given up) and it began to improve. Like others, I thought some of the characters, particularly Bitsy, were awful. I also didn't like the chapter where Bitsy threw a "binky" party, to encourage/force her 2nd adopted daughter to give up her pacifiers (or "dummies" as we call them in Australia). I would have given that chapter the chop if I were the editor. However, I was interested enough in Maryam, and later in Maryam and Dave's relationship to keep reading. I actually thought that the ending was really well done and was quite touching, one of the few satisfying endings of all that I have read recently. It has only taken me one afternoon staying inside out of the hot weather to complete this novel, so I feel as if I have overcome a personal Anne Tyler hurdle.


This is a study in what it means to be a family on one hand, and also what it means to be an individual in a family who is still the "other." Like all of Tyler's books this one is touching and sweet. There is something so comforting about the mundane and everyday in life that Tyler portrays, but also something very poignant about the situations described and the emotions surrounding them. Nothing earth shattering, but terribly real and relatable. Not only is the story of how differently these two mothers approach raising an adopted child a wonderful study in contrasts, but it is interesting to consider how the stories of these two girls will compare to the story of Maryam, an Iranian immigrant who has raised a family in the US, as they age. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Maryam's desire to maintain her Otherness and hold herself apart.


I'M DOING THAT WEIRD THING AGAIN.It occurs more regularly at those points in life when your bookshelf is particularly bare. I should certainly know, because right now half my books are trying to flatten out a bunch of AMAZING (and yet equally horrible) 90's movie posters I found at a garage sale last month. I'm thinking about wallpapering our living room with the likes of "Heat", "Weird Creatures", "Dante's Peak", and, of course, my favorite, "Jingle All the Way" (never actually saw it, mind you, but the face Arnold Schwarzenegger is making on the front should be the one he makes in every campaign photo. california would be 20x cooler)Anyway, you're really tired because you just came home from shooting a mexican infommercial for 14 hours and you need something to read to unwind while you cook your creamy-chicken-flavored-ramen-noodles. but, mysteriously, there's nothing to read around. so you go hunting for the "sex drugs and cocoa puffs" book you threw behind the couch when you got annoyed at chuck last month, but all you can find, all you can EVER seem to find lately, is "Digging to America", which you have already read and don't really care to restart. but you pick up anyway. because you are DOING THAT THING AGAIN. doing that thing, you know, where you just pick up the book, choose a page, and start reading, only because it's the most convenient thing around, for days and days, until you notice you're starting to piece together the book again the way you first read it. and, whoa, you liked it the first time, because all of anne tyler's books are the kind of mellow slow build that draw you into the characters, not the story, but this time, jumping from place to place, reading chapters at a time, you start to notice things about people you hadn't before, which is why you love these books, because it's just like living with the people you're reading about. which, of course, can be annoying. i find "annoyance" the most common reaction to anne tyler's books. you have to be patient with her characters the same way you're patient with an actual person. they're real. in all their traits and mannerisms and quirks and pitfalls, you have to look really hard to find what tyler may or may not be trying to tell you, (i imagine her to be much like her often absentminded characters, often forgetting what book she's even writing, and not that motivated in the first part to tell you anything in particular, anyway) through the memories and little moments she imparts sporadically throughout the telling. so i'm doing that thing again, but it's turned out kind of nice. just, you know, like spending time with the extended fam.if only doing "that thing" again with "sex, drugs, and cocoa puffs" had worked out quite so nice. chuck might still be around.

Michelle Magalong

What I anticipated versus what actually unfolded in this book were quite different. I was bored halfway through but wanted to endure the last half to find out what the ending would be. When I got to the very last page, I couldn't help but say "that's it?!" An uneventful ending to say the very least. The character development was quite unpolished and the plot was-- well, I guess I never found the main one, just a bunch of sub-plots that never fully became anything substantial or resounding. Quite disappointing to say the very least.

Sharm Alagaratnam

This book seems to have been following me around for the past couple of years, sneaking up on me in airports and various 3-for-2 offers that I see in bookshops. About a month ago I started requesting books from the library that have either won or been on the shortlist for competitions in the past, such as the Booker and the Orange prizes. Anne Tyler's book made the 2007 Orange shortlist.The plot itself is intriguing enough. Two American couples, one homey Baltimore and the other Iranian in flavour, become friends when they each adopt a little girl from Korea. Their family lives become intertwined through the girls, their parents and grandparents. So far, so cosy. But..The language in the book is very casual, so much so that it took me a while to get used to in the beginning, and I found the use of certain words such as 'lugging' jarring. Or is that an American vs. British English difference? In general the read was easy, almost like watching a soap on tv. The flip side of that is the almost indifference to its characters that the book inspires, despite the love and loss that the book serves up to try and endear itself to you.The characters do grow on you slowly but right to the end I had the sneaking suspicion that none of the characters could be or ever have been real, so completely did each of them embody the stereotype they represented. This included the cute little girls, the all-American father and grandfather, the exotic Iranian grandmother and all the neighbours!Interestingly, I found the most honest (or convincing) thoughts and conversations in the book to be about (national and cultural) identity and self, but surprisingly not that of the adopted girls. Perhaps I just expected something different from this book than the lazy, superficial story it delivered. Not one I would recommend to others.


A story about two couples, one quintessentially American and the other Iranian-American, who meet by chance at the Baltimore airport as they are both meeting their adopted Korean baby girls. They spark an unlikely friendship and this book explores the relationship between the two families and their vastly different ideas on child-rearing and life. Great character-development and Anne Tyler really captures the intricacies and emotions between relationships within families and friendships. I loved how Maryam (the mother-in-law) and Zida (her daughter-in-law)sort of dance around each other and miscommunicate in their attempts to be flexible and polite. There was so much I could relate to in this book like how you can be friends with someone who really gets on your nerves on the one hand, but is such a kind, well-meaning person on the other hand! This book does a great job of balancing our differences and commonalities with important people in our lives. A really enjoyable read!


I'm always amazed how Ann Tyler can write such riveting stories where not all that much happens. It's all about the characters and "Digging To America" is no exception. It follows the intertwined lives of two couples who meet at the Baltimore Airport when picking up their adopted Korean daughters. Bitsy and Brad are white upper-class Americans, while Sami and Ziba are Iranian-Americans. Their friendship spans their daughters' childhood.What I really enjoyed about this book is the insight about infertility and adoption, which has been called everyone's second choice. We see how hard the couples tried to conceive and how adoption turned out to be different than they expected. (Ziba weeps uncontrolably one night as her daughter sleeps, wondering "Where is my own baby?")


Two babies from Korea brought together two families--one from the United States and the other from Iran. In Digging to America, Anne Tyler tells the story of how two very different families became close friends to the point of becoming dependent on each other. It is interesting to follow the families adjusting to being parents/grandparents to adopted children, watch how the Iranian family brings their customs to American society, and see how much of the Korean girls' heritage should be retained. I also enjoyed reading about four sets of grandparents and each of their individual approach to being grandparents and welcoming an adopted child into their family. Tyler tells the book from the viewpoints of the main characters, which allows for an interesting insight into the families' dynamics. While I skipped some of the pages towards the end of the book because the story became a bit predictable and repetitive, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. In fact, this book is perfect for book clubs because there are endless issues to discuss.


a book about two families who each adopt baby girls from Korea. She weaves all these characters together that are associated with the girls, it's facsinating to see how each character develops after the arrival of the girls, and how the girls fill voids in everyone's life. Highly recommend this book.


I've read all of Anne Tyler's books, many of them more than once. What never ceases to amaze me is how much emotion there is between the lines. The proposal scene will break your heart. I confess after studying it that I still don't quite understand how its emotional impact is achieved. Understated, certainly. Unexpected, yes. Organic because nothing else could have happened here.Ms. Tyler loves every one of her characters dearly. There are no ugly souls in her books, just ordinary people who make mistakes.


This was a wonderful book. Thier is so much I want to say about this book but I'm still digesting this book. This book is a great character study. The characters are developed so throughly that you become genuinely invested in them. I can't say I always liked the characters or agreed with thier actions but I see why they behaved the way they did because Tyler did such an amazing job in developing each character. I love it when a book has the ability to transport you, I actually felt like I was at the airport when the girls arrived and at thier arrival parties every year afterwards. I found myself talking to the characters throughout this book. I definately would recomend this book.


I found Digging to America a sweet, compassionate tale of mothers and their love for families…their own families and the families around them. Starting off with the adoption of two Asian girls by two different Baltimore families, Tyler does a great job of combining cultural experiences with those of family and life experiences. Not only the Asian culture is touched upon in this book…one of the families who adopts a child is Iranian. Both adopting families mesh well, with cultural differences sometimes clashing and sometimes not. Tyler is always astute in character development and here is no exception. She expertly crafts each member of the family in their own unique way…giving each member their own due (even it’s a minor character). For the major players, Tyler really allows the reader to embody each…we get into their souls and get to know the whats and whys behind their behavior. A fabulous book by a fabulous author.


Tyler creates an interesting story centering around two families who adopt children from Korea in the autumn of 1997. They meet at the airport on the "arrival day" and subsequently plan to meet on the day in the future to commemorate the children's arrival in America. The most interesting aspects of the book surround Maryam, the grandmother of one of the girls, an Iranian widow who struggles to find her place in America; and that of Dave, the American widower, who is the grandfather of the other adopted child.The majority of the book was a fulfilling story, with many perspectives on what it is like to embrace your "adopted" country, like the Korean girls, and Maryam do throughout the book. Towards the end, Tyler abruptly shifts narrators to one of the young girls, and the tone and style are suddenly jarring and silly, specifically in regards to the "binky fairy" that other reviewers have mentioned here. It is laughable, and sticks out like "a sore thumb" from the well thought-out interpersonal relations and inner thoughts that make up the rest of the novel.Overall, an engaging story with interesting views on modern culture and traditions in the United States.


is novel Anne Tyler explores the American culture and what it means to be American. But more than that, she looks at how people from different cultural backgrounds can intermingle and reject each other at the same time. How a person can live in a country for more than 30 years, adopt its nationality and yet never really integrate. And by which process someone who has grown and lived in several cultures might build his own identity, torn between his origins, national culture and that of his friends, ultimately mixing it all up and (hopefully) keeping the best from each.Each of her characters is legally American, and yet they all have different levels of foreignness. Maryam was born Iranian but migrated as an adult and now has the American nationality; Sami’s heredity is 100% Iranian but he was born and educated in America; Jin Ho is American by all rights, through adoption, but cant negate her foreign origin… And Susan combines a Korean biological origin, an American upbringing and nationality and the Iranian roots of her adoptive parents. Bitsy and Brad are the only rooted Americans.Throughout the book they all struggle in their own way to fit in and define themselves. From Sami who alternates between being ‘more American than the americans’ and upholding proudly his Iranian heritage; through the Donaldson’s who fear being left out and adopt all the foreign traditions they encounter (adapting them along the way); to Susan who complains about not celebrating Christmas “the way other people do”, even though she had the tree, presents and carolling; each of them has his own tactics and fears.All in all, this is an incredibly insightful look into cultural identity and intermingling, as well as a wonderful, very funny read. Highly recommended!


I have to admit I had never heard of this book until I read about it on JoV’s blog. JoV hosted a giveaway on her blog and I was one of the lucky winners. I chose the popular Random Acts of Heroic Love, but she was generous enough to send me a copy of Digging to America along with my chosen book. If not for JoV, I would have never discovered this wonderful book.This book is about two Korean babies who are adopted by two different families based in America. While Jin-Ho is adopted by an American family, Susan is adopted by an Iranian family based in America. These two families come together on the night the babies arrive from Korea and are bonded by the one common thing – adoption of a Korean baby. The two families gradually discover the vast gap in their culture and opinions. They meet at every occasion and religiously celebrate the “Arrival Day” – the day the babies arrived home.Anne Tyler’s Digging to America has an intriguing title. I wondered why it was named this way and didn’t find out the reason until almost half way into the book. Jin-Ho is digging a hole in the backyard one day and wonders just like how she is digging a hole to China, is there a girl in China who is digging a hole to America. And that’s the trigger for the title – and also that all the characters in the book are trying to find a place for themselves in the land of opportunities.We see several characters – the girls themselves, their parents, maternal and paternal grandparents, relatives and so on. The best part of the book is the characterization. I am guessing Tyler reads psychology in her spare time because she understands human mind so well. Each and every character in this book is so real and so beautifully created, that it reminds me of Somerset Maugham. I love his characterization and Tyler comes really close. Of all the intriguing characters, I find Maryam, Susan’s paternal grandmother, the most interesting.The adopted girls, Susan and Jin-Ho, could have been built better. The girls are shown to be different but never explored further. We just know Jin-Ho to be clumsy and pretty whereas Susan is plain yet graceful. It would be interesting to know what the girls felt about their adoption. There is a fleeting mention of the girls not caring for the Arrival Day Party and the video, but I was hoping to read more. I expected a bit more elaboration when Jin-Ho gets an adopted sister – wasn’t there sibling rivalry at all? Also, the incident where Sami and Brat have a fight – this part appears childish and it doesn’t affect the relationships of the character which I found hard to believe.I like the fact that the third person POV changes after every few chapters. The initial few are in Maryam’s POV and it shifts to Ziba, Sami, Bitsy and even Jin-Ho. It needs a bit of context switching and it takes a while to get used to.I need to work with American people on a daily basis and the cultural differences crop up all the time – sometimes totally unexpected. What we call politeness is seen as lack of confidence by the American team. When they try to be frank and open, we see it as rudeness. We constantly check our words hoping not to toe the line and hurt anybody. I could relate so well to the cultural clashes that the characters in this book experience. A very interesting and thought provoking book that one must read.

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