Mini-reviews: Digging to America by Anne Tyler; Divergent by Veronica Roth; Legend by Marie Lu; and The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry

Title: Digging to America
Author: Anne Tyler
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Blair Brown
First line: At eight o’clock in the evening, the Baltimore airport was nearly deserted.

Anne Tyler is the queen of character-driven literary fiction. I read some reviews of this book on Goodreads that were less than complimentary, complaining that “nothing happens!” This novel reminds me, in some ways, of a Chekhov story – it’s a slice of life, not a plot-driven novel that follows a traditional story arc. Digging to America is the story of two couples who each adopt an infant from Korea. The Donaldsons are a closer-to-middle-aged all-American couple. The Yazdans are Iranian-American and young. The two couples form a friendship based on the simple commonality of their adopted daughters. The story follows the friendship, but is mostly the story of Maryam, the Iranian grandmother of an adopted Korean baby, as she explores what it means to be “other” in America. I loved it.

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: There is one mirror in my house.

I bought Divergent shortly after it was released, based on all the positive buzz. It then sat on my to-read shelf for month after month. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it – and I can’t wait for the second book to come out! Yes, it could have benefited from more world-building, but the page-turning plot and terrific characters, along with a unique concept, make it a worthy read. I’m hoping for more history on the different factions of the government in book two.

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: My mother thinks I’m dead.

Another great entry into the world of YA dystopian fiction. Legend alternates between points-of view: June, a young woman/soldier who was raised in the wealthy echelons of society and adheres to the principals of the Republic without question; and Day, a rebel who exists under the radar, stealing from the government in order to keep his family from starving. When the two encounter each other, June is forced to take a harder look at the government she has believed in all her life. I would have liked a bit more world-building – more history on how the Republic was formed, what people groups/geographical regions make up the Colonies, with whom the Republic is at war. This one ends very much on a cliff-hanger, a fact I began to realize as I came closer to the end and knew there was not going to be a tidy resolution. Any idea when book two comes out?

Title: The Memory of Old Jack
Author: Wendell Berry
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Counterpoint
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Since before sunup Old Jack has been standing at the edge of the hotel porch, gazing out into the empty street of the town of Port William, and now the sun has risen and covered him from head to foot with light.

Is it possible to fall in love with someone simply based on their writing? I know you are all probably thinking, “Oh, here she goes again with Wendell Berry… blah, blah, blah….” I can’t help it. The man is simply brilliant. After a few novels and a short story collection, the characters of Port William have become so real to me that I have to remind myself that they are fictional. They feel like family, which made reading this novel about a man spending the last day of his life looking back a very emotional experience.

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19 Responses to Mini-reviews: Digging to America by Anne Tyler; Divergent by Veronica Roth; Legend by Marie Lu; and The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    It’s been years since I read Digging to America, but I really enjoyed it too. I want to read Divergent because so many people love it.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – Digging to America reminded me how much I enjoy Anne Tyler – and that she still has lots of books I haven’t read!

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    Divergent and Legend are two books that get SO much blog coverage! I feel left out. Now about this Wendell Berry person. You do go on about him, and make me think that I need to give him a chance. You don’t go crazy over just any author like this one!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I know I should probably shut up about him. I think there are only three of his fiction works that I haven’t read, so it will have to come to an end at some point!

  3. Jeane says:

    My father keeps telling me how wonderful Wendell Berry is. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to reading one of his novels, even though I gifted a handful of them to my dad one year! My library only has a few titles, which doesn’t help.

  4. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads
    says:

    I read Legend last week and really liked it. I believe I saw something saying that the next book would be out later this year, and I thought I saw a title as well, but I can’t find it again now!

  5. Joy Weese Moll
    Twitter: joyweesemoll
    says:

    I keep meaning to read Divergent — a book club I’m in really liked it. I missed that meeting so didn’t read the book, but they keep referring back to it, so I’m definitely missing out!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Joy – it would definitely provoke interesting discussion in a book club!

  6. Colleen
    Twitter: booksnyc
    says:

    I listened to Digging to America on audio and really liked it too! From the story to the narrator, it was a great listen!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Colleen – I just discovered that the same narrator – Blair Brown – narrates another Tyler that I haven’t read yet: The Amateur Marriage. I put it on hold at the library – looking forward to it.

  7. Samantha says:

    Oh my goodness! I just recently finished Divergent and loved it! I CANNOT wait for the 2nd book to come out. I’ll admit that I didn’t think, I just read, and was sucked away into the world that Roth created. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it too!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Samantha – Only a couple months until the second book – Insurgent – comes out. Can’t wait!

  8. stacybuckeye says:

    I always enjoy Tyler and have this and a few others by her on my shelf. Maybe I need to have an Anne Tyler month?

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Stacy – I think sometimes I get so caught up in the latest and greatest books and authors that I forget that there are tried and true authors with a huge back catalog of books I haven’t read yet!

  9. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – March 4, 2012 (the “February reading wrap-up” and “Reading Challenges and TBR Double Dare update” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  10. Kathleen says:

    These all sound interesting in their own way but I am especially interested to read Wendell Berry.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathleen – I get very happy when people say they are going to read Wendell Berry – I love him!