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Digging to America

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  20,537 ratings  ·  2,303 reviews

Friday August 15th, 1997. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to two very different Baltimore families. Every year, on the anniversary of ‘Arrival Day’ the two families celebrate together, with more and more elaborately competitive parties, as little Susan and Jin-ho take roots and become American.


Paperback, 330 pages
Published April 19th 2007 by Vintage (first published May 2nd 2006)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  20,537 ratings  ·  2,303 reviews

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Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anne Tyler, the queen of quirky but loveable, has done it again. She reaches into the heart of people who seem so different than ourselves, and reveals them to be just like us. Why is it that when we feel insecure (or like we aren’t like other people or that everyone has the key but us), we can’t look around and see that everyone else feels the same way? We are just people trying to find our way through whatever life or circumstances we find ourselves in.

The story centers around two families, ea
May 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I'm a HUGE Anne Tyler fan. To my mind, she can do no wrong. Reading one of her books is like curling up on the couch in a baggy cashmere sweater. That said, this is definitely not one of her strongest. She doesn't develop the characters in any particularly complex way and it's really hard to step into their shoes. Usually her portrayals of families are so hauntingly real, it's almost uncomfortable to read about them, but here it read like the "setting the scene" for a family drama ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
[3.5 stars]

I enjoyed this story, though the first half dragged quite a bit. By the latter half I was much more invested in the characters' lives, especially that of Maryam who I think really should've been the central character all along. When it focused on her perspective and how she viewed the goings-on around her, I was much more able to connect to the story. I think a lot of that comes from Anne Tyler imbuing Maryam with so much of her own story, as her husband was an Iranian immigrant who d
da AL
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book I'd give 5 stars -- but only 4 for the audiobook version. Was it the fault of the recording company? Or the performer? Or both? When the reader's general reading was great -- but the central character is Iranian and she voiced her with an Indian accent! Never mind that she pronounced many of the Farsi words incorrectly. Surely there are plenty of performers in the U.S. who can do an accurate Farsi accent... As far as the content, Anne Tyler has a huge heart, gigantic enough to love peop ...more
Jan Rice

As I was reading this book, even when well into it, when almost done and racing to the end, I came to a section that made me judge it as uneven.

Then I finished. For a minute I just sat there. Then I burst into sobs.

I had just been complaining the other day that I couldn't understand catharsis from classic tragedy, but this is different. What is it about Anne Tyler's books?

It's been a while since I've read one. The Amateur Marriage hit me pretty hard.

In this book, two families who are both adopt
Michelle Magalong
Jan 08, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What I anticipated versus what actually unfolded in this book were quite different. I was bored halfway through but wanted to endure the last half to find out what the ending would be. When I got to the very last page, I couldn't help but say "that's it?!" An uneventful ending to say the very least. The character development was quite unpolished and the plot was-- well, I guess I never found the main one, just a bunch of sub-plots that never fully became anything substantial or resounding. Quite ...more
Helene Jeppesen
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was one of those funny reading experiences that started out plain, then turned a bit boring but then ended very much enjoyably. In this story, we get to meet two American families who both decide to adopt a Korean baby. They happen to be simultaneously present at the airport on the day they adopt their babies, and since then they form a friendship that allows for the two Korean girls to get to know each other - both from the same country and with the same background.
While the beginning of
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hard-headed people who need to lighten up
I've read all of Anne Tyler's books, many of them more than once. What never ceases to amaze me is how much emotion there is between the lines. The proposal scene will break your heart. I confess after studying it that I still don't quite understand how its emotional impact is achieved. Understated, certainly. Unexpected, yes. Organic because nothing else could have happened here.

Ms. Tyler loves every one of her characters dearly. There are no ugly souls in her books, just ordinary people who ma
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
I must admit that the only thing keeping me out of the newspaper in yet another road rage story are the audio books I download or check out from the library. Listening to audio books while fighting rush hour traffic on 1-65 is my equivalent of counting to ten.

Anyone remember the actress Blair Brown from The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, circa 1987? Ah, my dependable Saturday night date. What a sweetheart. Anyway, I just finished listenting to the audio book Digging to America and I must say tha
Book Concierge
Digital audiobook narrated by Blair Brown

A story of the immigrant experience and two families united by the decision to adopt. The novel opens at the airport where the Donaldsons and the Yazdans wait for the daughters they’ve adopted from Korea to arrive. Bitsy and Brad Donaldson, their parents, siblings, nieces and nephews are all there, loud, boisterous, excited to welcome the new addition to their family – Jin-Ho. They virtually take over the gate area. Lost at the back of the crowd wait Mary
A story of cultural difference, fitting in (and not) and trying too hard not to offend. In America, an Iranian and an American Guardian-reading (or equivalent) family adopt Korean girls on the same day, and thus three generations of both families are drawn together, despite their differences in lifestyle, parenting attitudes, family, traditions etc.

Towards the end, and with no explanation, an overlong chapter about giving up pacifiers is written in the style of a child. “Jin-Ho’s mother” this a
Susan Wood
Apr 11, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Currently reading for a local book club. I would not have chosen this book myself based on the first several pages. It's an easy read, with too many mundane details. I find myself skimming over a lot of the text and that is not what I find an enjoyable. Nonetheless, some of the characters are interesting... we'll see where it goes.

Update: I only made it half way through and won't finish it. The book club gave this story a unanimous thumbs down due to sketchy, somewhat schizophrenic, character de

It occurs more regularly at those points in life when your bookshelf is particularly bare. I should certainly know, because right now half my books are trying to flatten out a bunch of AMAZING (and yet equally horrible) 90's movie posters I found at a garage sale last month. I'm thinking about wallpapering our living room with the likes of "Heat", "Weird Creatures", "Dante's Peak", and, of course, my favorite, "Jingle All the Way" (never actually saw it, mind you
Aug 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: book clubs, mothers
I really enjoyed this book! I found myself telling people about it over the week or so that I read it. I found it really fascinating -- this look at Americans and "foreigners" -- seen through this tale of two very different families who are brought together by the adoption of Korean baby girls. I loved how different the two families were -- heritage, parenting approaches, personality, etc. I could appreciate the two new mothers and their varied feelings. I could relate to both Bitsy and Ziba, as ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adoption
(3.5) This stands out from Tyler’s usual fare due to the multicultural nature: two Baltimore families pick up their adopted daughters from Korea at the Baltimore airport on the same summer night in 1997 – a slightly hippie American family, and an Iranian-American family. In the years that follow the two families stay close, hosting annual arrival anniversary parties and comparing their daughters’ growth. My favorite character was Maryam, the Iranian-American grandmother, who is always having to ...more
Emily May
Dec 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
288 pages of absolutely no story, boring characters and just poor writing. The emphasis of this novel is on subtlety, if by that you mean that nothing actually happens then yes, that would be an accurate description.
Seriously, I finished each chapter and thought to myself: "so what actually happened there?" And the answer is nothing. This is a very boring book, I wasted a painful few weeks of my life trying to drag myself through it, I have to finish a book once I start it but I very nearly gave
Trishita (TrishReviews_ByTheBook)
‘Like most life-altering moments, it was disappointingly lacking in drama’, writes Anne Tyler describing, well, a life-changing event, but she might as well have been describing her way of writing those moments, only they aren’t disappointing. Quite the opposite, in my opinion.

In Digging to America, she is back at her usual tropes of little towns, interconnected families and living from one day to the next, but she also ventures into newer themes, international adoption, immigrant living and a s
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm always amazed how Ann Tyler can write such riveting stories where not all that much happens. It's all about the characters and "Digging To America" is no exception.

It follows the intertwined lives of two couples who meet at the Baltimore Airport when picking up their adopted Korean daughters. Bitsy and Brad are white upper-class Americans, while Sami and Ziba are Iranian-Americans. Their friendship spans their daughters' childhood.

What I really enjoyed about this book is the insight about i
In no way socks-or-mind blowing, but still has a quiet resonance -- it's essentially a love story between an elderly Iranian woman who's immigrated to the States and an elderly American man. Tyler works into this her usual flair for dialogue, layers in cultural nuances, dissonances, within both the Iranian and American communities, especially pertinent after Sept. 11, and sets it against the backdrop of the adoption of two Korean girls by two different families (one Iranian, of course, and the o ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everybody is an outsider, really. And I think that's Tyler's point. Those unspoken rules that Maryam notices? I don't know them, and I've never even traveled outside the continental US. Those are the rules for aspirational liberal middle-class white Baltimoreans. Maybe. These characters' stories are reminding me of how nonsensical the Golden Rule is. Class, culture, gender, etc. etc. all affect how one 'wishes to be treated' and how another one couldn't guess that to be true. For example on a mi ...more
Feb 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book comes from this question: if children in the U.S. dig a hole to China, are children in China digging to America? This seems to be a metaphor for the question of whether perhaps we're all, even the most American-seeming American, digging to America, or trying to figure out what it means to be American.

When the Donaldson (American through-and-through) and the Yazdans (Iranian-American) adopt baby girls from Korea on the same day, the families become the best of friends. It i
I fully expected to hate this book. I don't know why, but something about the subject matter (race relations, Korean adoptees, immigrants) annoyed me and I thought, "Here we go again. Another book meant to illustrate some point about race or adoption, or what-have-you and I will learn a moral or something."

But, unexpectedly, I enjoyed it entirely because of the characters. The saving character was definitely Maryam, the Iranian grandmother. Her thoughts I could most relate with (down to the ann
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this read. For light fiction Ann Tyler is my favorite choice. She throws out a snapshot of characters that are believable. This one explores a direction that I have not read from her before. Immigration and what it means to be American. I think that I may have found this more meaningful than some readers because I have read a few Iranian authors. The historical events referenced in this book offer little context and explanation but that is OK. With Tyler, a story is about the ch ...more
Chavelli Sulikowska
My first Tyler, and despite seeming slow to begin with, I was thoroughly enmeshed in the lives of the characters by the end. It explores the immigration experience, raising questions about identity and belonging, language and social isolation. There were sections where I felt certain characters could have been better developed, thereby adding a richer tapestry to the story - for example, the character of Sami and also his daughter Susan. Maryam was also another perplexing character that prompted ...more
Interesting, but the story moves slowly. Many of the characters are irritating and irrational. The focus of the characters really shifts from the beginning to the end of the book.
Ron Charles
Sep 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The appearance of a new novel by Anne Tyler is like the arrival of an old friend. And if you have an old friend, you know that such meetings don't always deliver anything new. It's mostly updates, the pleasure of reciting inside jokes, revisiting familiar legends and only then, possibly, the promise of some fresh development. But who's peevish enough to complain about the limits of a reunion? Everyone who has a favorite Tyler novel (mine's Saint Maybe) jumps on the latest one, in part, to rekind ...more
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by how much I liked this, considering how "feel good" this family saga is. I really liked the exploration of adoption and I loved that Tyler tackles multi culturalism here, because usually her novels are very white. I enjoyed almost all the characters and could feel for them. Superbly written and now one of my favourites from the later part of Tyler's career.

The Tin Can Tree (1965) - 4/5
Celestial Navigation (1974) - 4/5
Morgan's Passing (1980) - 4/5
The Accidental Tourist (1985) 3
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crazy over this book What a wonderful, hopeful, appealing story with a range of characters who are all memorable and endearing. Sometimes we have to take a step back and really open our eyes and hearts to each other—and to ourselves. It seems fitting that I finished this book on the dawn of a new chapter in American history😁
I appreciated this as my first experience with Tyler’s special voice and genius at portraying the rhythms and dynamics of American domestic life. The tale involves a comparison of two Baltimore families who adopt Korean toddler girls, one a “typical” American clan and the other second generation Iranians.

At the arrival of the babies at the airport, the cultural differences in response to the event set the stage for the rest of the book. Whereas the Donaldsons celebrate the arrival with a clan o
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“An American man, naïve and complacent and oblivious, convinced that his way was the only way and that he had every right to rearrange her life. She had melted the instant he said, “Come in,” even though she knew full well that inclusion was only a myth. And why? Because she had believed that she could make a difference in his life.”

I love a good character study and so inevitably I absolutely loved this book. This is a true testament to quality vs. quantity. Although it really is a short book,
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Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. She has published 20 novels, her debut novel being If Morning Ever Comes in (1964). Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a mem ...more

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“Isn’t it odd,” Maryam said. “Just like that, a completely unknown person is a part of their family forever. Well, of course that’s true of a birth child, too, but … I don’t know, this seems more astonishing.” “To me, both are astonishing,” Dave said. “I remember before Bitsy was born, I used to worry she might not be compatible with the two of us. I told Connie, ‘Look at how long we took deciding whom we’d marry, but this baby’s waltzing in out of nowhere, not so much as a background check or a personality quiz. What if it turns out we don’t have any shared interests?’ ” 0 likes
“You belong,” he told her. “You belong just as much as I do, or, who, or Bitsy or … It’s just like Christmas. We all think the others belong more.” 0 likes
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