Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book # 39 "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith

Every year I think about rereading books I loved when I was younger. Every year or two I'll reread "To Kill a Mockingbird" or I'll take another read of "Camille". It's like getting back together with a old friend and I always feel better after.

Now these two books I've read rather consistently since I first fell in love with them but others I loved in High School and earlier I haven't read in years and in some cases decades. An example of that is "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". I don't think I've read it in 20 years or more. This month my book club decided to "A Tree" and I realized I haven't read it forever. But I began to get nervous that I wouldn't love it the way I did when I first read it.

Well, I didn't have to worry. It was everything I remembered it being. Francie Nolan and her family live in turn of the century Brooklyn. Poverty and cruelty is everywhere yet the Nolan family they're family and neighbors work hard to simply live, an accomplishment in itself. Francie's father Johnny is a lovable entertaining man who drinks to much and finds it hard to grow up and take care of his family the way he should. The job of providing for the family falls to Katie Nolan, Francie's mother. Katie works hard to earn money and take care of her family and also pushes each of her children to get an education, knowing it's the only way they will ever escape life in the tenements of Brooklyn.

A vivid picture of a time and place that doesn't exist anymore "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is, at heart, the story of how one little girl, with the help of those who love her, survives with hope and a remarkable resilience that makes you root for her to become everything she hopes to be.

I loved this book so much. The old chestnut of "I Laughed, I cried" really does fit this book. I think one of the things that struck me most is how fast children had to grow up in those conditions. We talk today about how fast our kids grow up but it seems nothing in comparison to that way children had to fight to survive in this time period. Children went to work to support their family and while I'm sure it still exists I wonder if it is prevalent. Just with the child labor laws it must be different.

The hope that flows through this story is what really touched me. I truly believe Francie would be one who made it out but unlike others shown in the story who made it out and turned their backs on their life in Brooklyn you're left knowing Francie would never forget or hate her past life. Thanks to the love and support of all her family Francie would never really leave Brooklyn.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I am so glad I came by. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN is in my top five all time favorite books list always. I also read To Kill A Mockingbird every so many years..especially this year with the big anniversary..but "TREE" is one I try and read more often. It just hit a note with me when I was young and I also think the fact I still have my mom's copy, even with her now gone, makes it even more special. Glad you found my blog as it brought me here!