Nothing like a last minute flurry of Orange shortlist reading and delighted this one didn't pass me by.Truthfully I don't think the moment ever passes with Anne Tyler; her books seem to stay on the shelves, in print and make timeless reads whenever.Incidentally I present this older cover for your delectation because the one that I have is, well, in my humble opinion,too contrived and posed ...hrmmph.
Two very different families gather at a US airport to greet two Korean baby girls as they arrive for adoption into two very different cultural environments.
The all-American Donaldson's strive to maintain little Jin-Ho's heritage, the Iranian Yazdan's immediately change their baby's name to Susan and introduce her to a mixture of Iranian and US traditions.As the extended families become involved it's all a proverbial melting pot of identity, foreigness and confusion about who really belongs where and where exactly is home, balanced with the all-consuming sense of a dominant and all-powerful US culture.
I probably had more than a passing interest in the subject matter because of my flatmate from student nursing days. Her family had adopted Vietnamese twin girls from the Hoi Duc Anh orphanage in Saigon via a Christian charity known as Project Vietnam Orphans, and so I knew them well and all the tribulations and subsequent joys of the process.
Ly Thi Tam and Ly Thi Thu, renamed Angela and Gabrielle, were the subject of a fascinating book by James Davidson Ross, Children of the Ashes, and now in their late 30's.Initially they were terrified at the sound of aeroplanes going overhead but they were a delight and the quiet Yorkshire village were they lived didn't quite know what had hit it as these little bundles of energy settled into their new life.
Digging to America is written in Anne Tyler's wondrously wry and funny style and there are moments of real comedy as the annual Arrivals Anniversary Party becomes a bigger and more competitive event that strays further and further from its original intentions.The geeky nephew announcing "Many Happy Returns" for a start and the annual rendition of She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain as the welcome song for want of a better idea.
Perfectly and intimately observed and total command of a great cast of characters made this an enjoyable read and worthy of the shortlist but ...out on a limb here...not an Orange Prize winner when you have Chimamande Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun to contend with.
But I do still have The Observations by Jane Harris to report on.
Might that pip it to the post?
More tomorrow and just in time for the official announcement of the winner tomorrow evening and for more detailed reviews of this book and others head to Eve's Alexandria here and Book World here.