Sharm Alagaratnam's Reviews > Digging to America

Digging to America by Anne Tyler
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's review
Dec 20, 2008

it was ok

This book seems to have been following me around for the past couple of years, sneaking up on me in airports and various 3-for-2 offers that I see in bookshops. About a month ago I started requesting books from the library that have either won or been on the shortlist for competitions in the past, such as the Booker and the Orange prizes. Anne Tyler's book made the 2007 Orange shortlist.

The plot itself is intriguing enough. Two American couples, one homey Baltimore and the other Iranian in flavour, become friends when they each adopt a little girl from Korea. Their family lives become intertwined through the girls, their parents and grandparents. So far, so cosy. But..

The language in the book is very casual, so much so that it took me a while to get used to in the beginning, and I found the use of certain words such as 'lugging' jarring. Or is that an American vs. British English difference? In general the read was easy, almost like watching a soap on tv. The flip side of that is the almost indifference to its characters that the book inspires, despite the love and loss that the book serves up to try and endear itself to you.

The characters do grow on you slowly but right to the end I had the sneaking suspicion that none of the characters could be or ever have been real, so completely did each of them embody the stereotype they represented. This included the cute little girls, the all-American father and grandfather, the exotic Iranian grandmother and all the neighbours!

Interestingly, I found the most honest (or convincing) thoughts and conversations in the book to be about (national and cultural) identity and self, but surprisingly not that of the adopted girls. Perhaps I just expected something different from this book than the lazy, superficial story it delivered. Not one I would recommend to others.
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