Digging to America
By Anne Tyler
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307263940, 288pp.)
Publication Date: May 2, 2006
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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.
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.
“The appearance of a new novel by Anne Tyler is like the arrival of an old friend . . . With her 17th novel, Tyler has delivered something startlingly fresh while retaining everything we love about her work . . . 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, Washington Post Book World
“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.”
–Tara Gallagher, 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.”
–Sheryl Connelly, New York Daily News
“Tyler encompasses the collision of cultures without losing her sharp focus on the daily dramas of modern family life in her 17th novel . . . [A] touching, humorous story.”
“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.”
–Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“The veteran novelist extends her range without losing her essence in this tale of two families drawn together by their adopted daughters despite the friction created by their very different personalities and ethnicities . . . The ensuing culture clash enriches Tyler’s narrative without diminishing her skills as an engaging storyteller and delicate analyst of personality . . . Readers will hope that these flawed, lovable people will find happiness, but they won’t be sure until the final page, so deftly has the author balanced the forces that keep us apart against those that bring us together. Vintage Tyler, with enough fresh, new touches to earn her the next generation of fans.”
“The author’s 17th novel exemplifies her skill at depicting seemingly quiet and unremarkable lives with sympathy and humor . . . A touching, well-crafted tale of friendship, families, and what it means to be an American.”
–Library Journal (starred review)