Digging To America – Anne Tyler

How great is it when you have read a book that made reading seem an effort to then pick up a book that totally reminds you why you read, why you should try books you wouldn’t and in particular why you should try and author you haven’t before? Anne Tyler’s ‘Digging To America’ has done all of that in just two days. I spoke to my mother about it who said ‘oh Simon, she’s one of my favourites, I have always said you should read her’ this was news to me I just smiled down the phone in reply.

This was another of those books that someone had put in their final five at Book Group, I think it was Matt, and I had been quite interested in. Tyler’s latest novel (I am thrilled to find there are loads more for me to now readitswapit) is set in Baltimore and starts with two families awaiting the arrival of two adoptive daughters from Korea. One family is The Donaldson’s who are lead by the mother to be Bitsy (great name sums up her character and conjures up and image in an instant) one of those ‘organic amazing’ people that are hard to like but have something about them that you do like in spite of yourself, her husband the good natured Brad and Bitsy’s parents, her mother is suffering from cancer which has sort of set them all unravelling. The other family are the Yazdan’s who compile of the nervous worrier Ziba, her husband Sami and his widowed mother Maryam a complex and illusive Iranian born woman. The families gain a strange bond and the two mothers become close arranging to meet for the girls ‘Arrival Days’ each year, which oddly get more and more competitive and more and more tense as the years go by.

Seeing the changes every year was a wonderful effect and part of the story that made it different from a lot of novels that I have read. Tyler also only focused on the families in hand and their backgrounds and in making it a year between seeing each other (to start with) you have lots to catch up on and many mishaps to come. I thought this book was absolutely amazing. I thought it discussed the dilemmas that adoptive parents must face extremely well, I also thought it dealt with the themes of outsiders, belonging, old people falling in love and culture really, really well. After putting down the book I felt like I had been on a real journey although this novel is not a thriller and is not fast paced. I just thoroughly enjoyed it and it reminded me why I love reading, I hope the rest of her books will do the same?

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Filed under Anne Tyler, Book Group, Books of 2008, Review, Vintage Books

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