Like Ms. Tyler's best novels, Digging to America gives us an intimate picture of middle-class family life: its satisfactions and discontents, its ability to suffocate and console. But at the same time the story ventures into territory more usually associated with writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Gish Jen. It looks at the promises and perils of the American Dream and the knotty, layered relationship—made up in equal parts of envy, admiration, resentment and plain befuddlement—that can develop between native-born Americans and more recent immigrants intent on making their way through the often baffling byways of the New World.
Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times
(Audion version.) Blair Brown is one of those rare performers who can capture an author's voice to perfection.... Her vibrant reading of Digging manifests her outstanding talent as she moves lightly and briskly through the narrative, pausing ever so slightly before Tyler's clever punch lines for added effect. Brown makes this wry satire about the adoption of foreign babies so laugh-out-loud funny that standup comics could study her timing. Both adults and children are played to perfection. Brown's enactment of Iranian immigrant Maryam Yazdan and Ziba, her daughter-in-law, is amazing in her accurate reproduction of the soft and liquid Farsi vowels. In contrast, American-born Sami, Maryam's son, speaks like the prototypical Easterner. Brown remembers that the children of immigrants sound like their peers, not their parents. This hilarious audiobook actually improves a fine novel.
The author's 17th novel exemplifies her skill at depicting seemingly quiet and unremarkable lives with sympathy and humor. Set in Tyler's beloved Baltimore, with some side excursions into the Washington, DC, area, the story concentrates on two middle-class couples who meet when their adopted Korean daughters arrive on the same flight from Asia. At first the new parents appear to have little in common other than the infants. The Donaldsons, who have waited many years for a child, personify stereotypical American white-bread suburbia, while the younger Yazdans are linked to a large and lively Iranian immigrant community. As years pass and the annual multicultural "arrival party" for the little girls becomes a shared tradition, the families and their sometimes eccentric relatives become ever more closely linked. Several perspectives spotlight the various characters' small misunderstandings, larger hurts, and shared moments of warmth, especially those between dignified grandmother Maryam Yazdan and a recently widowed member of the Donaldson clan, whose brief romance threatens the established web of relationships. A touching, well-crafted tale of friendship, families, and what it means to be an American. Recommended for all fiction collections.
The veteran novelist (The Amateur Marriage, 2004, etc.) 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. On Aug. 15, 1997, two baby girls arrive at the Baltimore airport from Korea. Jin-Ho is swept into the exuberant arms of Bitsy and Brad Dickinson-Donaldson, who are throwing "what looked like a gigantic baby shower" in the waiting room with their extended family. Sooki is quietly handed over to the Yazdans-Sami and his wife, Ziba, accompanied by his mother, Iranian immigrant Maryam-who rename her Susan. Wanting to connect Jin-Ho with another Korean child, outgoing Bitsy pulls the Yazdans into her family's orbit and establishes the annual tradition of celebrating the girls' Arrival Day. The two couples become close, especially Bitsy and Ziba, but Maryam is dubious about these brash Americans, with their slightly tactless self-assurance and intrusive questions about Iranian traditions. The ensuing culture clash enriches Tyler's narrative without diminishing her skills as an engaging storyteller and delicate analyst of personality. She examines the insecurities underneath Bitsy's overbearing manner, American-born Sami's amused condescension toward both his natal home and the land of his ancestors and a host of other complex aspects of her well-developed characters, including Ziba's nouveau-riche parents and Bitsy's easygoing father, Dave. Maryam is the novel's central figure: a teenaged immigrant, widowed before she was 40, who has never felt quite at home anywhere and maintains a critical distance from Americans and Iranians alike. Only Dave breaches her defenses. After his beloved wife's death—Tyler's portrait of his grieving is sensitive and touching—he unabashedly declares his need for Maryam, who reciprocates and then panics. 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.
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