"A Tree Grows In Brooklyn"

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This is yet another one of those books I've been hearing about all my life but never got around to reading. No real reason, it just never fell into my path. When I started reading book blogs, it was everywhere. It always got good reviews so I found a copy at a used book store and threw in in my pile.

I finally got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago, and oh my it was really good. I couldn't put it down. The story hooks you and reels you in with writing so good that you don't even notice it. That's so refreshing. Description and dialogue flow naturally so both story and characters develop at a good pace.

The setting is Brooklyn, NY, 1912. Francie, the main character, is 11 years old when the story starts and 17 when it closes and is one of the more memorable characters I've read in a while. I guess this is a "coming of age" story, but I hate to use that term. I don't know why I dislike it so much, but I tend to not read a book if that's how it has been described to me. Just one more of a long list of reading quirks I seem to operate by.

Francie's story is enjoyable to read because she doesn't waste any time feeling sorry for herself. She and her brother, Neely, make the best of whatever comes their way. They live in poor and always unpredictable circumstances but they live, really live, every moment, and they live it with hope. It's that hope that is never lost or abandoned that makes Francie and her family so very endearing. Francie is smart, funny and vibrant. I love her tenacity, her refusal to let life break her spirit and her quiet acceptance of all the little (and the big) idiosyncracies of her family members.

I like that the tone of the book stays positive through all the hardships yet never becomes sappy. It is realistic, neither a fairy tale nor fatalism. I'm finding so many books, old and new, that have nothing to offer but hopelessness. Pointlessness. Sometimes it seems like the more jaded or cynical the author, the more the book is esteemed. On the other end of that spectrum are books that are nauseatingly sweet. Characters are one dimensional, the plot never thickens, and everybody lives happily ever after. I don't like those any better than the hopeless ones. I like them like this one, real, sometimes even gritty, but still finding good in people and beauty in the world.    

I think this is one book I will read again one day. It's a great choice for anyone looking for a good story and a positive outcome. I most definitely recommend it.


Post a Comment