The Shoveler, The Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a million-dollar bank account--wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grandchildren. "Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says. What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling weed at the Arby's Drive-Thru window. Like first-class tickets to Jamaica between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a trailer park. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest.
As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings' suburban respectability begins to spread, the estranged grandchildren gradually find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.
Dig is an inquiring, thought-provoking novel, uncomfortable but important. Through the raw, unfiltered lives of the grandchildren, Dig tells the story of decay spreading across a family tree, of senseless injustices disguised as love and good intentions, and of racism and prejudice seeping into lives and relationships. It confronts us with the price of success and survival, and questions our values and the tunnels we ourselves are running through. It is the story of five teenagers, told in each of their distinct voices, as they try to piece together fragmented worlds and questions without clear answers.
This is definitely a novel in which the plotlines are cast out early on and reeled in slowly as the story progresses. It can be confusing at first, but I promise that the pieces will fit together and the tangled yet disconnected relationships will begin to make sense. What ultimately drew me to Dig the most was the storytelling. The writing is incredible--sharp, humorous yet profound, marked with offhand comments packed with meaning. This novel explores the bitter side of generational divide--the repercussions of older generations' attempts to mold those younger into their idea of respectability--and the systems of wealth, race, privilege, and indifference that run concurrently with mainstream society. It shows us how each person is haunted, albeit by different things, how familiar people can be strangers, physically and ideologically, and how we have the capability to be different--be better--than those who came before us.