Lately I had been dying for a good read, something to grab me, and pull me in. I needed a book that I missed when we were apart and couldn’t bear to put down for too long. Something that I could dive into and escape with. I wanted to remember my great love for reading and experience it again. Fate would have it that the book that would reignite my passion for reading would be none other than A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I feel that I had a stoke of luck in meeting this book, I heard of it in a passing conversation and was intrigued, but it wasn’t until I saw it sitting on my great grandmothers bookshelf that I decided I really wanted to read it. I saw it there, a beautiful old copy, red, or maybe green with pretty swirling letters, worn and well loved like most old books are and it had an effect on me, I felt strange pull towards it and decided that I wanted to get a my own copy. I purchased it off of Barnes and Noble, which is rare for me because all of my books are thrifted or hand me downs, but I just couldn’t wait for this one. It came in as a beautiful blue book that fit in my hands perfectly, with an untouched pristine look it was all mine. I am now so happy with my decision to purchase this because with my own copy I can share this book with sisters and friends as I feel it is a book most woman can connect with and understand.
A Tree Grow in Brooklyn is an emotional chronicle of girlhood that reminds one of the beautiful and honest way a child views the world. The novel follows the Nolan family and their lives in early 1900s Brooklyn New York. Francie is the eldest Nolan child and the central character of this novel. The family is led by the hardworking and sacrificial Katie Nolan, whose perseverance is an unwavering constant display throughout the novel. Katie’s husband is Johnny Nolan, one of those unfortunate souls who is born with an horrid imbalance of romanticism and common sense, despite his short comings the lessons that Francie learn from him become invaluable to her in life. Cornelius, Neely, is the brazen younger brother who embarks on many adventures with Francie. Through the lives of the Nolan’s Betty Smiths delves into subject matter such as, poverty, alcoholism and literacy vs. illiteracy. We see the whole family crave an escape from their life of poverty and the social class they see themselves in. One by one we see each member find and follow the path that brings them each their freedom but all by different means.
One of the reasons I identified so strongly with Francie, and I think many others feel this way as well, is her great love for learning. A strong pull in Francie’s life is education, she craves learning, reading and discovery especially through books. Francie’s attitude towards knowledge is really what connected me so deeply to this book, she not only wants to know but understand and experience life around her. These attributes make her a vivid and well loved character who I have added to my list of literary best friends.
I would like to leave you with one of my favorite moments in this book. I think this quote really exemplifies Francie’s character and what her goals and desires in life are.
““Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”