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Customer Review

144 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Kinder, Gentler Jane Austin, May 4, 2006
This review is from: Digging to America (Hardcover)
I always marvel at what a quick and easy read Anne Tyler is without being glib and facile. Her latest novel DIGGING TO AMERICA is no exception. It's as if Jane Austin came to live in present day Baltimore and was kinder and gentler. There is not a single villain amongst Tyler's latest group of just off-center characters-- and there are enough folks here to fill up a Eudora Welty Sunday dinner-- I'm almost positive Ms. Welty would like this novel if she were alive.

Two couples, previously unknown to each other, arrive at the Baltimore airport on Friday, August 15, 1997 to meet their newly adopted baby daughters from Korea. Because of that meeting, they become friends, particularly the two mothers. The Donaldsons-- Bitsy and Brad-- are as American as key lime pie, and their new friends, Sami and Ziba Yazdan, are Iranian American. Much of the plot has to do with Sami's mother Maryam who came to the United States as a young bride and her difficulties with being between two worlds and not feeling at home in either.

The characters sometimes act silly, occasionally badly; but to a person they mean well. Ms. Tyler writes beautifully about finding love again in old age, a topic few writers do well or even attempt for that matter. Of course Gabriel Garcia Marquez covers that topic in the incomparable LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA; but then he writes well about everything. The author also tackles the tricky task of getting into the head of an Iranian character and apparently pulls it off. There are many instances of gentle humor here. Ms. Tyler pokes fun at Americans and all our foibles. Maryam has so much difficulty understanding Bitsy's father Dave: "He is so American. . . He takes up so much space. He seems to be unable to let a room stay as it is. . . He has cluttered my life with cell phones and answering machines and a fancy-shmancy teapot that makes my tea taste like metal. . . You think that if you keep company with them [Americans] you will be larger too, but then you see that they're making you shrink; they're expanding and edging you out."

Ms. Tyler writes eloquently about the solitude of old age. Her description of a day in the life of Maryam (p. 255) approaches poetry: "What a small, small life she lived! She had one grown son, one daughter-in-law, one grandchild and three close friends. Her work was pleasantly predictable. Her house hadn't change in decades. Next January she would be sixty-five years old-- not ancient, but even so, she couldn't hope for her world to grow anything but narrower from now on. She found this thought comforting rather than distressing."

Finally only a writer of Ms. Tyler's ability could make-- for me at least-- a party to wean a baby from pacifiers interesting. The guests at the event tie the pacifiers ("binkies") to helium-filled balloons and release them into the sky.

Another winner for Ms. Tyler.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2006 2:29:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 11, 2006 2:29:53 AM PST
Della says:
I just read the book. This review says all I wanted to say only better. I think I've read all Anne Tyler's books and never been disappointed. This one may be her best.

Posted on Jan 23, 2007 6:42:19 AM PST
M. Holman says:
I've read Anne Tyler and cannot find the meat. It's all fluff, and reviewers seem reluctant to say so. Anne herself says it all in the reviewer's quote... "pleasantly predictable."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2007 2:09:45 PM PDT
Thanks for your nice comments.

Foster Corbin
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