06 November 2006

Digging to America, by Ann Tyler

November 06 2006 (18:43:00)

Ann Tyler writes beautifully about families. Her families are always real and believable, made up of quirky, impossible people, suffering from pain and benefitting from love as real families do. She has the gift of putting the right words in their mouths, the right thoughts in their minds. She tells us the parts of their story that we want to know. I've never been disappointed in a Tyler novel, and Digging to America was another winner.

Digging is the story of two children from Korea adopted by middle-class Americans in the late twentieth century. It's the story of two families, the Yazdans and the Donaldsons, who meet at the airport when the babies arrive. Driven by the outgoing Donaldson family they stay in touch and a years-long relationship begins. Every year they have an "arrival party" to celebrate the day when they all met at the Baltimore airport. The novel follows the families as they change, grow, die, argue, fight and love.

Tyler has the knack of being contemporary and timeless at once, blending the interactions of human beings of all kinds, as they exist in families and outside of them, with external social and political issues and events. The Yazdan family are Iranian immigrants and their descendants. Iranian culture and Iranians living in America in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century becomes one of the themes of the novel, and we are treated to a loving yet realistic (one believes) look into the lives of these new Americans.

Digging to America includes death as well as birth, and has more than a little to say about what it's like to get old in this country. Ann Tyler's voice is gentle yet truthful, she looks on our people and their lives with a loving sense of humor, never failing to penetrate to the core of the human condition.

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