Book: Digging to America

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Digging to America: A Novel

Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

In what is perhaps her richest and most deeply searching novel, Anne Tyler gives us a story about what it is to be an American, and about Maryam Yazdan, who after thirty-five years in this country must finally come to terms with her “outsiderness.”

Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport—the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam’s fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian American wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate with an “arrival party,” an event that is repeated every year as the two families become more deeply intertwined.

Even independent-minded Maryam is drawn in. But only up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by one of the Donaldson clan, a good-hearted man of her vintage, recently widowed and still recovering from his wife’s death, suddenly all the values she cherishes—her traditions, her privacy, her otherness—are threatened. Somehow this big American takes up so much space that the orderly boundaries of her life feel invaded.

A luminous novel brimming with subtle, funny, and tender observations that cast a penetrating light on the American way as seen from two perspectives, those who are born here and those who are still struggling to fit in.


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After 30 years in the United States, independent-minded Maryam Yazdan still maintains a quiet sense of otherness. After a chance encounter at the Baltimore airport, she and her family befriend the Donaldsons, and even the guarded Maryam is drawn in by their hospitality. Her attitude becomes more conflicted, though, when she is courted by an older member of the Donaldson clan. Anne Tyler’s novel offers gently nuanced insights about identity, privacy, and cultural differences.

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