Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book Review: Digging to America

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

I was very excited to find this in the audiobook section of Hastings several months ago. The book kept popping up on "Must Read Books This Summer" lists, or was mentioned by other notable writers, and was well-reviewed.

So imagine my excitement when I finally had the opportunity to listen to it while driving to Boise! Yeah!

Sometimes life presents us with opportunities to create our own families. This is such a story, one about two families slowly becoming one. It begins at the airport where we see a huge group of people, wearing buttons exclaiming "mom," "dad,"" grandma," and grandpa," and off to the side we see another group, much smaller, in fact, only three people. Both groups are awaiting the arrival of their newly adopted daughters from Korea. Brad and Bitsy Donaldson later invite Sami and Zibar Yazdan over for a "Leaf Raking Party" and the two families begin the process of becoming one.

"Adapting" stands out as one of the book's strongest themes; the notion of becoming comfortable with yourself and others yet allowing a certain amount of turmoil in your life to keep you uncomfortable with yourself and others at the same time. Its also about growth, about how we as individuals change over time. And as we change, so do our friendships.

We all have known a Bitsy Donaldson. A woman who craves multi-culturalism, an environmentalist, and who has no problem telling people how they should live their lives. Bitsy drove me crazy in this book!! I could not believe how she constantly preached to Zibar on how she should raise her daughter. Like suggesting Korean children's stories, soy milk, or looking down on her for changing her daughter's name from Suki to Susan. Bitsy also criticized Zibar for working instead of being a stay-at-home mom like herself.

We've also all known a Brad Donaldson. A husband who will stand behind his wife no matter what crazy ideas she may have. A man who gives everything to his family and friends and asks nothing in return.

Sami and Zibar Yazdan are Iranian-American and are just trying to live the picture perfect American life. They give their daughter Susan every opportunity possible. They want Susan to be very American, yet Susan ultimately grows into an Iranian-Korean-American. As the Yazdans eventually learn, you can't necessarily rid yourself of your background or culture. Maryam Yazdan, Sami's mother, struggles with this the most since she feels neither American (she's lived in Massachusetts for over 30 years), nor Iranian. She constantly feels outside of the group and is easily the most interesting and complex character in the book. She also struggles with the issue of learning to love again so late in one's life. Anne Tyler did a wonderful job of weaving emotion into the blanket of this particular story.

The Arrival Party, the event celebrating the day their daughters arrived, is what eventually brings these families closer and closer together over the years. This relationship evolves, or "digs" to a place where love and family are found in the most unexpected place, and is one neither the Yazdans nor the Donaldsons would give up for anything else in the world.

Kim's Grade: A Witty, funny, heart-warming and annoying. You love to hate some of
these characters at times!

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