A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—and it still flourishing 50 years later

Tree Warm sunny day and blue sky.A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is about Francie Nolan growing up in Brooklyn in the years just before and during World War I. Francie has a loving family, a library card, and little else.

Francie’s Mother is a cleaning woman, her father a singing waiter with a fondness for the bottle. Both parents want a better life for their kids.

After Johnny dies, Katie is forced to let Francie and her brother, Neeley, quit school to work, though neither is old enough to get working papers. Against the odds, Francie manages to work and get her diploma.

When Katie marries a well-off widower, Francie and Neeley feel sorry for their baby sister because she won’t have the fun they had.

The story outline sounds rather sentimental, but there is nothing sentimental about Betty Smith’s presentation. The characters are authentic individuals. Even the coincidences in the plot are plausible.

The book has a episodic quality that takes a little getting used to. It made me feel I was reading someone’s journal rather than a piece of fiction. The writing is not that of a teenager, but Betty Smith makes you feel you’re watching a teenager growing up.

For an optimistic look at real life, you can’t beat  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By Betty Smith
Harper & Brothers, 1943
443 pages
My Grade: Grade: A-

Photo Credit: Tree by wense91 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1388096

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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