DIGGING TO AMERICA by Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Mary Stein, Friday Morning Book Club ...take our poll!

Digging To America (September 13, 2007) Anne Tyler is an impressive and prolific writer. She has received many awards for her 17 books, including the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons. Our book club read Anne Tyler's most recent novel, Digging to America, in which two American families, the Donaldsons and the Yazdans, are brought together for the first time at the Baltimore airport where they are both picking up adopted Korean baby girls.

The couples and their extended families become friends and we learn about their different personalities and lifestyles. The novel is really about Maryam Yazdan, one of the adoptive grandmothers. Maryam is a reserved Iranian-born widow who tries to maintain her Iranian culture and also fit in with the American way of life, but through most of the novel feels like an outsider.

Even though the reviews were favorable, most people in our book club were disappointed with this novel. They thought that the characters were shallow, that the novel lacked depth, and that the descriptions of not belonging did not ring true. However, at least one in our group found Maryam a complex character, and several found that the novel provided insight into immigrant attitudes toward Americans. Those who had read other Anne Tyler novels, however, felt that those were much better.

P.S.: One of the pluses of reading Digging to America was learning about Iranian food. In this novel, a number of Iranian culinary treats were mentioned and our book club sampled two: doogh and fesenjen. Doogh is a cold beverage made with yogurt and carbonated water. Fesenjen is a hot entrée of duck (we used chicken.), ground walnuts, pomegranate juice, onions, and spices. Some of our members thought that the doogh and fesenjen were delicious, and at least one thought that being introduced to Iranian food was worth the read.

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