A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith – 496 pages
The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.
My Review: 5 stars
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn was chosen as a pick for my book club for our one “classic” read a year. I recall reading it in high school, but certainly not with as much clarity and compassion as I have now, through adult eyes.
Francie is a beloved character and this book is completely character driven. Each one is humanized with love (not always directed in the right places), imperfections, anger, hunger and destitution. What makes Francie such a good protagonist is her unflinching ability to hopeful. Her dire situation while growing up in Brooklyn is usurped by her love of books and her ability to find the goodness in the most simple of things.
The tree mentioned in the title is a non-living character but is a metaphor for her life and viewpoint from the fire escape. Beautifully written and another book that for some unidentifiable reason sits on the banned books list.
Quotes I liked:
The world was hers for the reading.”
-“Forgiveness is a gift of high value. Yet its cost is nothing.”
-“Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life…And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”
“If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful. But because there are so many, you just can’t see how beautiful it really is.”