Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Sometimes books come at the right time. I had heard from so many friends just how good this book was, but I didn’t get to it the first time it came in for me. But I was really ready now for something so seamlessly written, with characters so clearly and compassionately drawn. Two American families in Baltimore adopt Korean girls and meet in the airport—the Donaldsons and the Yazdans. The Donaldsons invite the Yazdans into their lives right away, wanting the girls to grow up together, share their Korean heritage. Smoothly transitioning from year to year, from character to character, Tyler explores the idiosyncracies of family life and parenting, as well as the complex terrain of national identity, belonging, and “foreignness.” Sami and Ziba Yazdan are Iranian, and Maryam, Sami’s mother, still feels very much apart from American life even though she has lived there the majority of her adult life. What is an American life? What are the rules of American society, being as so many of them are not made explicit? Tyler evokes the viewpoints of her characters with a warmth and generosity that is infectious. I simply did not want this book to end—I wanted the years to keep scrolling by, the follow both families much longer.

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