Dig

Dig

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 simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-fi...

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Title:Dig
Author:A.S. King
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Edition Language:English

Dig Reviews

  • Lala BooksandLala

    And this is why Amy is my favourite author. Dig is just so perfect and my exact brand of weird; I feel like it was written just for me.

  • Kathy

    The story remarkably weaves the characters together and apart. It was incredible to see how the story evolves. Excellent ya!

  • Alyssa Chrisman

    I love A.S. King so much. This is the book I didn’t know I (we) needed until I read it.

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء

    ,” writes King.

    Reading this book, a whirl of thoughts and feelings assailed me eightfold and I almost recoiled. For days, my thoughts were a jumbled string of words that barely held together as it tumbled end over end. There is a twisting feeling in my chest still, like cloth being wrung dry. This is the kind of novel that drives wo

    ,” writes King.

    Reading this book, a whirl of thoughts and feelings assailed me eightfold and I almost recoiled. For days, my thoughts were a jumbled string of words that barely held together as it tumbled end over end. There is a twisting feeling in my chest still, like cloth being wrung dry. This is the kind of novel that drives words out, that doesn’t really fit into easy boxes, that makes those who recommend it falter, before finally saying, "

    ."

    Just trust me.

    . For these five teenagers, the word “family” falls sharp, slick with wrongness, damp as nightmares and tinged with a residue of resentment. They know too well how to say it, with gritted teeth and spittle flying, all their scorn bound up in it, wondering if they’ll ever find a way through the endless corridors of hate and fury they’d inherited and come out untorn, untattered, undefaced.

    There’s a thread running through them all, marrying one to the next. It’s the breakage in the lines of their family’s history; a breakage that begun with Gottfried and Marla Hemmings.

    Greed and something else—something

    —wound its creepers about the hearts of Marla and Gottfried and squeezed the warmth from it. Marla, encased in her own armor of virtue, and Gottfried, trained around her cruelty, severed ties with their children, and soon after their children begun to drift apart, stooped with the burdens of life while their parents reveled in soft living. The old couple, in their scathing indifference, had let themselves go on with this simplicity of conviction: “

    .” But the wretched thing—and the thing they never dared talk about—is that whatever darkness prowled inside them moved into their kids, and their kids’ kids, like roots driving deep into soil, clogging and staining them, choking them like rot. But soon, reality wouldn’t let Marla and Gottfried settle on their well-worn excuses, becoming like a stone in their shoes, impossible to ignore.

    Here are their grandchildren:

    meandering through the city with a shovel, drifting more than walking, dulled and faded (most of all,

    ), and still no nearer an answer.

    whose world has gone white and everything dropped away, leaving her suspended, screaming, in a terrible void.

    selling pot at the Arby's drive-thru window because hate had eroded the parent she once loved, who can’t figure out when the one person whose presence hung like a lamp in the darkness of her life went “

    ”.

    whose father’s gaunt face is not letting hope take root, who is suffering a cloying, needy loneliness, and a constant terror siphoning and draining him at every turn.

    who is hovering at the edge of madness, her only solace an imagination that fashioned the scraps of her life into a circus in a desperate lunge at the hope of melting the knife of reality that had been buried in her side.

    Five teenagers walking through untouched brambles deep-running as roots, always digging, searching out every stone and grinding leave in the hopes that one of them might yield the answers they're looking for.

    yet, I drank it all down, with a kind of stunned curiosity, like a whirlpool sucks down waves, though at first I could hardly understand half of what it meant.

    The experience of reading

    is sometimes necessarily jarring—the story King tells is puzzling, drunken and garbled, out of kilter with what a tale ought to be. The frequent and liquid shifts in point-of-view give the whole a scattered and surreal look, but the dreamlike procession of the narrative isn’t psychedelic—it’s knife-sharp and vivid as crystal. There’s a chiming clarity to King’s prose that held me like a swift-running current, glimpsing difference and familiarity in varied measure before stumbling into something like the sea. My anticipation made a low thrum—the feeling like a scream building in my mind. And my amazement soon mingled with dread when the story—which previously felt distant and blurry—came into sharp focus, pouring forth a deluge of answers through a series of fragmented flashbacks about the characters and dumbfounding revelations about their pasts. They reverberated through my head like a tolling bell, and I often found myself in the grip of a storm of such a feeling that I sometimes faltered in my reading, struggling to continue.

    There are so many grace notes to appreciate about this novel, but a huge part of what is so wonderful about

    is the clear and unabashed vituperation with which the author confronts issues like racism, white supremacy, abuse, and family dysfunction, the piercing boldness with which she also writes of mental health, sex, and sexuality, and the deftness with which she then weaves it all seamlessly into the plot and setting.

    Each word falls as dark as an axe-head, heavy and unrelenting, and a rage, that I am at a loss to even describe, often pulsed up from my core like the shock wave of a blast.

    plunges its reader into the violence of the world we live in, and I was struck by the bitter, irrevocable

    of it all: a white family owning a souvenir slave bell, a neighbor with “100% White Power” tattooed on his arm (which, King later divulges, is based on a real person), a father abusing his wife, a girl missing, the cruelty of a parent who doesn’t care.

    This is the kind of YA book I wish I read as a teen, because it doesn't treat its teen readers as if they exist in some pristine, unspoiled state until they pick up a bold, unvarnished novel that makes them squirm uneasily in their seats.

    is provocative and raw, and most of all, it gives the reader a great deal of material to reflect upon at leisure.

    The plot of

    is split between five teenagers and then again among other narrators. The five cousins have their own coming-of-age stories that intertwine eventually. In fact, their stories proceed independently for most of the book before they ever actually meet.

    At the core of each of them, something red and primal snarls at the sheer rottenness of the world, wanting it overturned like a bowl of eggs, smashed at their feet. They want nothing but to fly away from the dead-end corridor where their lives had trapped and taunted them. To fly away from the prejudices that led to generations of hate. To fly away from themselves, only to realize that that family was only a shape they had been poured into—they did not have to keep it.

    King’s words have a deep pull, and she seems to know exactly what teenagers are capable of and what they’re able to bear. Reading this book, I could so easily put myself back into the picture of it—that tender age when what there is of you feels too heavy to shoulder but too insignificant to have its own gravity, the familiar keenness of helplessness and words catching in your straining throat even as you thought them, the heft of solitude when no one dares walk down that dark tunnel with you because no one wants to look too closely at another person’s pain, and above all, the acute edge of

    , always like flint, a spark away from fire.

    This is not to say that

    is steeped in grimness. It is true that, by the end of the book, I had in no way softened in my attitude toward Marla and Gottfried. Their excuses, so horrifying that they scorched indelibly upon my mind, only left room in me for utter disdain and hostility.

    is, nonetheless, shot through with hope and unexpected shafts of livid sunlight that gave me a churning, glowing warmth in my belly. The present collides with the past, as the five teenagers attempt to find harmony between the two—a task that once seemed insurmountable for all of them. And at last, they’ll watch hate—a relic of the past—fed to the flames, so the gnarled, shredded roots of their family can grow again, nourished by love and acceptance.

    Chaotic, enthralling, and relentlessly audacious, this isn’t a novel for everyone, but I truly think everyone should read it.

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  • Marianne

    Dig is the tenth novel by award-winning American author, A.S. King. The sixteen-year-old and his mom are new in this Pennsylvania town (though Mom says she has old business here). It’s January, and snowing a blizzard; he gets a snow shovel from the guy in the house next door to their leaky apartment, and becomes The Shoveler. For the old couple advertising painting work, he’s the painter kid.

    The seventeen-year-old has lived here all her life. Her parents are rich so she doesn’t need to work, bu

    Dig is the tenth novel by award-winning American author, A.S. King. The sixteen-year-old and his mom are new in this Pennsylvania town (though Mom says she has old business here). It’s January, and snowing a blizzard; he gets a snow shovel from the guy in the house next door to their leaky apartment, and becomes The Shoveler. For the old couple advertising painting work, he’s the painter kid.

    The seventeen-year-old has lived here all her life. Her parents are rich so she doesn’t need to work, but she does the Drive-thru at Arby’s so she can have her own money (she won’t take theirs) and supply her clients. She shares obnoxious customer stories with her best friend Ian, of whom her racist parents and grandparents don’t approve because of his colour. She sees herself as CanIHelpYou.

    Malcolm’s dad is dying of cancer; he really wants to spend more time with his dad (no, he won’t be phased by the sickness and ass-wiping) but keeps getting shuffled off to his grandparents. Marla insists on trying to make him eat lamb (he can’t), while Gottfried is apologetic; they’re both racists, filthy rich and Marla, in particular, is very tight with their money.

    Loretta wishes her mom would not keep taking her dad back; he’s violent and abusive. If her mom had some money, they could escape. Loretta gets away from it all with her flea circus: she’s the Ringmistress. She remembers her Pop-Pop fondly but hasn’t seen her grandparents in years.

    Into (and out of) each of their lives flickers The Freak. Is she real? She seems magical, and helpful, in strange ways, sorting out their thoughts, nudging them in the right direction.

    Gottfried knows he spent too many years building their fortune while neglecting his five children; Marla’s warped conviction to make her children self-sufficient has led to their resentment of her, and she and Gottfried have lost more than they will ever realise.

    King’s superb story is carried by these smart and quirky teens. Everyone is flawed, but the adults have had longer to mess up. It’s easy to wish for good outcomes for these young people, who deserve better than they’ve had so far. Each has their own way of coping with what life deals out to them; there’s hope in that.

    King’s characters harbour secrets and guilt, but also display a capacity for love and adaptability. Her demonstration of how entrenched racist/white supremacist attitudes can seem almost unconscious is thought provoking, as is the idea of segregation of donated blood; the male mindset allowing, even encouraging rape and violence is confronting and will be a challenge to alter.

    It’s part murder mystery, part lamentation for the state of human relations, part rallying call to young adults to think for themselves, to question authority; it’s an utterly brilliant read.

  • Neville Longbottom

    *Lady Gaga voice*:

    A.S. King’s books are so weird and so wonderful.

    is a difficult book to explain, like many of her books. I’m not even going to begin to try and describe the plot. Just know that it’s an incredibly strange and moving story that covers many topics, such as family, abuse, privilege, race, death, and much more.

    I know this isn’t going to be a book that

    *Lady Gaga voice*:

    A.S. King’s books are so weird and so wonderful.

    is a difficult book to explain, like many of her books. I’m not even going to begin to try and describe the plot. Just know that it’s an incredibly strange and moving story that covers many topics, such as family, abuse, privilege, race, death, and much more.

    I know this isn’t going to be a book that everyone enjoys… but I think if you’ve liked her previous books then you should give this one a try. Or if you’ve never read her books but are down to try something

    and the synopsis sounds intriguing, then go for it.

  • Emily May

    I broke my usual habit of reading books in a couple of days with

    . I actually spent over a week dipping in and out of it while my family visited. And, strangely, I think it was the right decision for this book. It's a tough read in multiple ways. It's an uncomfortable, ugly read about multi-generational racism and the far-reaching consequences of hate and abuse - among other th

    I broke my usual habit of reading books in a couple of days with

    . I actually spent over a week dipping in and out of it while my family visited. And, strangely, I think it was the right decision for this book. It's a tough read in multiple ways. It's an uncomfortable, ugly read about multi-generational racism and the far-reaching consequences of hate and abuse - among other things - and it's also a typical mind-bendy and weird

    novel.

    I think taking my time with it helped me unpack all the layers of the story. And there are many.

    It starts out very odd. The book moves between a large cast of characters, all living their own seemingly unrelated lives, with suggested elements of magical realism. This is

    , so she doesn't shy away from dark subjects, and each character is dealing with their own problems or trauma. What makes it especially strange is that some of the characters are called things like "The Freak" and "The Shoveler". It

    an odd choice, but I promise that it does all eventually come together.

    The weird, disorientating style is difficult to read at first, but when I got into the book, I couldn't put it down. When the bigger picture started to form, I saw what the author was doing. And it was really fucking impressive.

    There's so much going on here and it's hard to know exactly what to reveal. The stories in here are all very different, the characters' voices all distinct, yet they are all about fraught relationships between parents and children. Loretta lives in a wagon with her mother and abusive father; The Shoveler, on the other hand, has never known is father and he takes jobs after school to support himself and his mother; CanIHelpYou?'s friendship/romance is threatened by her mother's bigotry.

    I found one of the book's most poignant and heartbreaking moments to be when a friendship is ruined by a discovery that changes everything. I won't ruin it. But those WRONG WORDS cut me deep. I feel like I should have seen it coming.

    is a book of many metaphors, the title also being one. The process of reading it is a journey to the root of an old issue, a poisonous seed planted decades ago that is still infecting the lives and minds of people today. To speak as plainly as possible (and that's not easy with this book), it is a book about how the hatred sown by parents and grandparents has embedded itself in the lives of young Americans today.

    An utterly weird, disturbing and original novel.

    CW: Racism, misogyny, homophobic slurs, abuse.

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  • Billie

    I never quite know how to talk about A.S. King's books. They aren't straightforward narratives that walk up and say "Here's your story and here's the lesson you should take from it." They're skittish things, like stray kittens, who nose up to you out of the corner of your vision but, when you turn to look at them, they dash away to hide in the shrubbery and peer out at you with glowing eyes.

    is no exception. It twists and turns and bobs and weaves and not until the very end does it stay in o

    I never quite know how to talk about A.S. King's books. They aren't straightforward narratives that walk up and say "Here's your story and here's the lesson you should take from it." They're skittish things, like stray kittens, who nose up to you out of the corner of your vision but, when you turn to look at them, they dash away to hide in the shrubbery and peer out at you with glowing eyes.

    is no exception. It twists and turns and bobs and weaves and not until the very end does it stay in one place long enough for the reader to get a good look at the thing as a whole.

    And what can I really say about it that is going to make any sense and not give the whole thing away? Five kids, all misfits and outsiders. One older couple, set in their ways and estranged from most of their family. Two brothers—two rather unpleasant brothers. Assorted parents and other adults, all of whom are rather awful in their own ways. Who are all of these characters? I can't tell you. How do their stories relate? Can't tell you that either. All I really can tell you is that

    is weird and wonderful and painful and beautiful, like that feral kitten mentioned above. You need to accept that it's going to do everything it can to elude you and when you finally corner it to get a good look, it's likely to hiss and scratch, but you'll love it anyway.

  • Malanie

    This book is entirely its own thing. And it’s quietly judging everyone else in the room.

    follows SEVEN povs, all of which are connected. Even though each voice sounds a little bit the same...except for Loretta’s pov!!!!!!

    ...I was still invested in everyone’s story.

    This book is entirely its own thing. And it’s quietly judging everyone else in the room.

    follows SEVEN povs, all of which are connected. Even though each voice sounds a little bit the same...except for Loretta’s pov!!!!!!

    ...I was still invested in everyone’s story.

    ➡️➡️

    A teenage boy living with his VERY irresponsible mom. He carries a shovel with him everywhere because he’s always on the edge of panic + he feels incomplete because he doesn’t know his dad. (And tbh...I've never felt this way this way about having a single parent. The “two-parent family model is the only childhood that won’t leave your kid traumatized” thing is just not true.)

    ➡️➡️

    : A girl who will have your back no matter what, even if you never find out just how much she’s been looking out for you.

    ➡️➡️

    : This character features a best friendship break-up!!!!!!!!! We never get to see this in literature, where best friends break up with one another. But it’s just as dramatic and painful as any romantic relationship, I was trembling and on the verge of tears. Also! We also get into race and White privilege through this character.

    ➡️➡️

    : A GOLDEN RETRIEVER IN HUMAN FORM. WHAT A SWEETHEART TEDDY BEAR. I LOVE HER. I WANT TO KISS HER ADORABLE FOREHEAD. Her character reps poverty, domestic abuse, and sexual abuse.

    ➡️➡️

    : Malcolm’s loving, free-spirited bisexual dad is dying of cancer, so Malcolm is going through that emotional trauma + having to sometimes live with his screwed-up grandparents.

    ➡️➡️

    : Said screwed-up grandparents. They love living their best domestic lives, including coupons and deep freezers and vacuuming their carpets. Gottfried cries all the time.

    ➡️➡️

    : Two brothers who “do not give a fuck” and walk around with their pet snake + regularly do illegal, health-damaging activities

    Overall, I loved the sparse writing-style of this book and the gorgeous domestic imagery. Realistic AND aesthetic dialogue + representation of a whole range of social issues. Not many people know about this book and I am BAFFLED!!!!!!!!!!!

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