NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the beloved, Pulitzer Prize–winning author comes "an intimate picture of middle-class family life" (The New York Times) that challenges the notion that home is a fixed place, and celebrates the subtle complexities of life on all sides of the American experience.
Two families meet at the Baltimore airport while waiting for their baby girls to arrive from Korea. The Iranian-American Sami and Ziba Yazdan, with Ziba's elegant and reserved mother, Maryam, in tow, wait quietly while brash and all-American Bitsy and Brad Donaldson, plus extended family, are armed with camcorders and a fleet of balloons proclaiming "It's a girl!" After they decide together to throw an impromptu "arrival party," a tradition is born, and so begins a lifelong friendship between the two families.
As they raise their daughters, the Yazdan and Donaldson families grapple with questions of assimilation and identity. When Bitsy's recently widowed father sets his sights on Maryam, she must confront her own idea of what it means to be other, and of who she is and what she values.
Tyler (Breathing Lessons) encompasses the collision of cultures without losing her sharp focus on the daily dramas of modern family life in her 17th novel. When Bitsy and Brad Donaldson and Sami and Ziba Yazdan both adopt Korean infant girls, their chance encounter at the Baltimore airport the day their daughters arrive marks the start of a long, intense if sometimes awkward friendship. Sami's mother, Maryam Yazdan, who carefully preserves her exotic "outsiderness" despite having emigrated from Iran almost 40 years earlier, is frequently perplexed by her son and daughter-in-law's ongoing relationship with the loud, opinionated, unapologetically American Donaldsons. When Bitsy's recently widowed father, Dave, endearingly falls in love with Maryam, she must come to terms with what it means to be part of a culture and a country. Stretching from the babies' arrival in 1997 until 2004, the novel is punctuated by each year's Arrival Party, a tradition manufactured and comically upheld by Bitsy; the annual festivities gradually reveal the families' evolving connections. Though the novel's perspective shifts among characters, Maryam is at the narrative and emotional heart of the touching, humorous story, as she reluctantly realizes that there may be a place in her heart for new friends, new loves and her new country after all.
Friends in Baltimore
Just discovered Anne Tyler a few weeks ago. So far have read 4 of her books. Actually feel like I have friends in Baltimore!
Embrace the Annoying Characters?
Hard for me to give any Anne Tyler book such a low rating, but this was a complete miss for me. I could not find any characters I liked enough to care about—in fact one of the main characters, “Bitsy” I can’t imagine anyone tolerating for more than a few minutes, let alone for years. As for an insight into the experience of adopting and raising a child from outside the US, I was disappointed by the fractured focus of the novel.