At my work we were given the task of filling out a sheet of paper about the books we liked and the ones we didn’t. There were ‘whys’ and titled examples of what drove us to keep reading and what simply drove us crazy. With a monument forged of papers, management then set about pairing us together and tasked us with recommending books to the other person as an exercise in reader advisory (I work in a library).
This was a book that was on my partner’s all-time favorites. I’ve since lost the sheet that had the total information on it, but I seized this book in order to try and get to know the person who recommended it, to try and built a bridge between our vastly different literary hunting grounds.
And so I started Digging to America, a story about two adopted foreign babies and the story of the drastically different families that raise them.
We see the children grow up, but mostly engages their families interacting and occasionally battling each other over their cultural differences (one is of Iranian heritage, the other white bread American).
The inoffensive style and milquetoast plot (non-hostile pushes towards assimilation and pushback on the premise that traditions are important, oh my!) dance around characters that are human, but in the most uninteresting way possible. They have desires and wants, but they feel so frivolous, so ‘is-this-really-all-you-have-to-worry-about’ that it feels more like being told a story about your parents neighbors than it does a novel.
As negative as all of this sounds I have to say, I didn’t hate the book. I didn’t anything it. I could pick it up and put it down the same way I would utensils from the dishwasher. It was a book I read and continued reading until it was over and then I sat there for several moments trying to figure out how the hell I was going to talk about it.
I’ve always been someone who has abided by the rule that one should love a book, hate a book, but never succumb to indifference. Which is unfortunately where I currently find myself sitting. Digging to America is the story of two families. It is a shame, then, that neither of them managed to be anything more than passingly interesting.
“Isn’t it odd,” Maryam said. “Just like that, a completely unknown person is a part of their family forever. Well, of course that’s true of a birth child, too, but … I don’t know, this seems more astonishing.” “To me, both are astonishing,” Dave said. “I remember before Bitsy was born, I used to worry she might not be compatible with the two of us. I told Connie, ‘Look at how long we took deciding whom we’d marry, but this baby’s waltzing in out of nowhere, not so much as a background check or a personality quiz. What if it turns out we don’t have any shared interests?’ – Anne Tyler, Digging to America