Sunday, January 22, 2012

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith

528 pages

This classic novel chronicles the life of young Francie Nolan as she grows up in the slums of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, in the early 20th century. The rest of her family consists of her mother, Katie, a practical woman who works tirelessly for her children; her father, Johnny, a warm, friendly dreamer who makes wonderful plans that are ruined by his alcoholism; her younger brother, Neeley, who shares her childhood adventures. Young Francie seems to have traits of both her parents: in many ways she is logical, like her mother, but she is also a dreamer like her father. More than anything else, Francie wants to get an education so she can become someone important. No matter how many obstacles get in her way, Francie perseveres. As she tells Francie's story, the author paints a vivid picture of life in Brooklyn during the early 20th century.

For a long time, this book was on my Librarian's List of Shame. Honestly, I avoided reading it because I thought it would be long and dull because whenever I heard it described there didn't seem to be much action. I was totally wrong about it being boring, though! Even though it's driven by the characters rather than the plot, it never felt tedious. There are plenty of little interesting stories throughout the book, and the characters come to life extremely well. Even though my situation was very different from Francie's when I was growing up, I still totally related to her. I think anyone who struggles to find their place in the world and fit in with their peers will find a connection with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

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