Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The title arises from a child’s simple question: if American children are digging to China, are Chinese children digging to America?

Interesting, no?

The questions continue: what does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be a foreigner? And what does it mean to be a family? These are the questions I thought Digging to America was going to ask, and in the beginning, Tyler’s seventeenth novel set out looking for answers. It’s when the Donaldsons and Yazdans celebrate the fourth arrival party that the novel began to flounder as it shifts its focus from these questions and these daughters to a relationship between Susan Yazdan’s grandmother and Jin-Ho Donaldon’s grandfather.

The Donaldsons, an “American-American” family, and the Yazdans, second-generation Iranian-Americans, meet at the Baltimore airport while waiting for the arrival of their respective Korean daughters. Both families have decided to adopt after years of trying; both are anxious to bring their child home. What’s interesting, though, is the difference between each family’s parenting styles and the subsequent relationships they form with their daughters. The Donaldsons decide to keep Jin-Ho’s Korean first name; the Yazdans teach their daughter to speak Farsi and cook Iranian cuisine.

The first three-fourths of this novel are thought-provoking and interesting, but, as I said above, the last quarter was tedious. It was as though Tyler ran out of problems for the families to face and the only remaining thing to do was to complicate their friendship by having Maryam and Dave date. The ending, therefore, is quite sappy and predictable, but the first three-fourths are still enough to win high praise from me.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Tyler, Anne. Digging to America. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Print. 304 pgs. ISBN: 034549234X. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Ballantine Books. Retrieved: November 10, 2009.


  1. I’ve read a few Tyler novels. While I like her work and admire her writing, I don’t think I’ll ever love her work. The Accidental Tourist is my favourite, not read this one though.


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