Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The only Anne Tyler I have read was The Amateur Marriage, and I thought it was okay, but it didn’t do much for me. But I know what you are going to say, her books are amazing, etc. etc., so I thought I would try again. When Digging to America came out, a coworker read it and said it was good, and I filed it away to possibly read at some unspecified later date. That “later date” turned out to be “when I was desperately looking for a book for my book club to read.”

Digging to America is the story of two families who adopt baby girls from Korea. They meet at the airport and form an unlikely bond. The Yazdans, who are Iranian-American, want to raise their daughter Susan to be as “American” as possible, while the Donaldsons focus on keeping Jin-Ho’s Korean heritage. Two very different approaches to adoption from two very different families, and yet, somehow, they carve out a friendship, which eventually extends to include the grandparents. The central character of the novel is Maryam, the mother of Sami Yazdan, who is a widow and who eventually has a relationship with Dave, the father of Bitsy Donaldson.

This book is about what it means to belong, to be a part of something, and we see that theme explored through the baby girls, through the Yazdans (who, though American, still feel that there are rules that they don’t know that everyone else seems to play by), and through Bitsy, who is so intense that she doesn’t even seem to be comfortable with herself. I struggle with that feeling of “other-ness,” with being an outsider, and I liked the way that we could see that some of the characters were both excluded because of circumstances and were choosing to exclude themselves. I especially liked the last scene in this book, when one character literally opens a door to another character, symbolizing a huge shift in her heart and in her approach to those around her.

I want to read more Anne Tyler now, but I don’t really know which direction to go. Any recommendations for me?

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