Burt, Anne. The Dig. March 2023. 288p. Counterpoint.
Sophocles’ play Antigone, written in 441 BCE, is here pulled into modernity by Burt, a consultant for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The ancient play sees brothers instigate a civil war, and one of their daughters, Antigone, defies her uncle and puts her brother first. So it is in The Dig, which opens amid a civil war, this time in 1993 Sarajevo, Bosnia. Andela, age three, and her brother Mujo, six, are found by American construction-worker brothers in the rubble of a destroyed building, their dead mother nearby. Their Antigone takes place in Thebes, Minnesota, where the children, now called Antonia and Paul, have a “typical American upbringing, blah, blah, no drama,” after being adopted by Eddie King, one of the brothers. Except it’s not really drama free. The blond and hearty residents of Thebes are not ready for the dark-haired, reticent Antonia and Paul, and Eddie dies of an overdose when he can’t handle the new responsibility. What the King family decides for the town is taken as local law, but Antonia defies her Uncle Christopher, graduating from law school and decidedly not working for her family. Paul rebels even more, protesting the Kings’ development of a new shopping area that displaces his Somali immigrant friends and then disappearing. Finding him and getting to the bottom of their pasts, both in Bosnia and more recently, will draw Antonia into a storm of lies and corruption and a fierce battle for control of her life. Feelings when ambition and family collide are no different today than in 411 BCE, and the resulting spectacle is no less captivating.—Henrietta Verma