Review: Digging to America

Digging to America -- Ann Tyler [Cross-posted on Revish]

I don’t remember the title of the first book I read in which nothing happened, but I remember being surprised that 1) Nothing happened and 2) I enjoyed it. It may very well have been an Anne Tyler book.

In Anne Tyler’s latest book, Digging to America, nothing happens. Well, that’s not entirely true. What I mean is nothing but life happens. There is no mystery, no great climax, no real plot to speak of. And that’s ok. Anne Tyler’s gift is not necessarily plot heavy books, but books with intricate character studies.

I’ve been an Anne Tyler fan since I read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant back in the 1980’s and have read 15 of her 17 novels. Although I didn’t realize it until today, all of Ms Tyler’s books are mostly character studies, and therefore it is the characters I mostly remember from her novels. I loved the way Ms Tyler wrote about quirky characters and I often joked that my in-laws would make great characters in an Anne Tyler novel.

Digging to America is about two very different families that meet at an airport while waiting to meet their adopted daughters from Korea. The story revolves around the two families through the next five years: their evolving friendship, occasional bitterness, a loss, a romance and not a little misunderstanding.

Brad and Bitsy Donaldson are well-meaning, politically correct suburbanites. Sami and Ziba Yazdan are Iranian-Americans, adapting to American culture, while occasionally shaking their heads at Americans’ behaviors. Each family has extended families whose characters are as colorful as anyone in real life.

The book alternates between the two families’ points of view, each chapter providing a different character to speak, so the reader gets to be “in the head” of several characters in the novel.

If you are looking for a book with an intricate plot, I’d pass this one by, but if you want a cozy book in which the characters are highly developed, give Digging to America a go.