June 11, 2006
Digging To America
Digging To America by Anne Tyler
Finished on 6/2/06
Rating: A- (8/10 Very good)
I’ve been reading Anne Tyler’s novels on and off for several years, but I hesitate to say I’m a big fan. I enjoyed Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, and The Amateur Marriage, but I’d be hard pressed to say that any wowed me enough to think, “I have to buy her next new release!!” I even have to confess that I had to go to Amazon to look up the earlier titles and familiarize myself with the various plots and characters. I’m sure she’d hate to hear this, but I’m forever confusing her with Alice Hoffman.
This particular novel revolves around Jin Ho and Susan, Korean babies adopted by two families, who until “Arrival Day” at the Baltimore airport, were complete strangers. Jin Ho’s new parents are All-American Brad & Bitsy Donaldson and Susan’s are Sami & Ziba Yazdan, a young Iranian couple. Other key characters include Bitsy’s parents (Connie & Dave) and Sami’s widowed mother, Maryam. In spite of exchanging just a few polite words of congratulations, this shared life-altering experience turns what could have been a casual meeting into a close, and long-lasting, friendship as they watch their little babies grow up and become childhood friends.
In alternating chapters, the insecurities and challenges of parenting are gradually revealed through each of the major characters’ points-of-view. It wasn’t until I read Dave’s (Jin Ho’s grandfather) chapter that I began to feel an affinity for any of the characters and their roles as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. Tyler hits her mark when it comes to understanding (and thus, expressing) the minutiae of the day-to-day process of grieving for a loved one.
Digging To America is a wonderful read and I’m glad my online book group chose it for this summer’s lineup. I zipped through it in just a few short days, in spite of a lackluster beginning. Tyler’s narrative is one of humor and tenderness, particularly in the closing chapters. Her characters have stayed with me, weeks later, in spite of moving on and finishing a couple of new books.