24 March 2012

Anne Tyler: Digging to America (2006)

Reviewing Anne Tyler's Digging to America in The New York Times here, Michiko Kakutani finds the coincidence of the two separate adoptions of Korean babies at the same time, arriving on a plane to Baltimore, is 'contrived in the extreme', and certainly it's glaringly evident that the baby contrivance is designed to bring the Iranian Yazdan family and the American Donaldson family together, serving as the sine qua non of the plot.

OK, fine, but what I find truly impossible to believe is that the mother Bitsy Donaldson couldn't find an image of a pacifier (British English: baby's dummy) online: this book is a few years (although only a few) old, but I keyed in 'pacifier', clicked on 'images' and found over 6,000,000 pacifiers. (The internet tempts you to do some very strange things at times.) There's a whole chapter on pacifiers in Digging to America too, culminating in masses of them being disastrously launched into space on balloons.

Tyler, of course, is noted for the absurd, so her previous novels perhaps don't render this event quite as surprising as it might have been. The pacifier launch happens at the time of a get-together between the families, and very often the novel seems a little like a long (even occasionally tediously long) string of social occasions, rather similar to  Back When We Were Grownups in this respect.

The blurb on the front flap says: '[Digging to America is] about belonging and otherness, about outsiders and insiders, pride and prejudice, young love and unexpected old love, families and the impossibility of ever getting it right, about striving for connection and goodness against all the odds...'. I agree, although I think this paints a rather darker picture than this novel gives out: here, things are very much softer than Tyler's other novels, differences exist but are often smoothed over if not positively worshipped, and life in general is not anything like as difficult as in most of her other novels.

I get the idea that Tyler wanted to fictionalize her married life with an Iranian doctor and their children, although any resemblance between the characters in this novel and any persons in real life, of course, is purely coincidental.
The links below are to Anne Tyler novels I've written posts on:

Anne Tyler: If Morning Ever Comes (1964)
Anne Tyler: The Tin Can Tree (1965)
Anne Tyler: The Clock Winder (1972)
Anne Tyler: Celestial Navigation (1974)
Anne Tyler: Earthly Possessions (1977)
Anne Tyler: Morgan's Passing (1980)
Anne Tyler: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982)
Anne Tyler: The Accidental Tourist (1985)
Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons (1988)
Anne Tyler: Ladder of Years (1995)
Anne Tyler: A Patchwork Planet (1998)
Anne Tyler: Back When We Were Grownups (2001)
Anne Tyler: The Amateur Marriage (2004)
Anne Tyler: Noah's Compass (2009)
Anne Tyler: The Beginner's Goodbye (2012)
Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread (2015)

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