Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (May 30, 2006)
Page Count: 528
ISBN #: 9780061120077
Publication Date: 1943
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a timeless classic as well as one of the best coming-of-age stories of all time. Set in the early 20th century, the book follows the Nolan family’s struggles and accomplishments. They are a family that has learned to do without, but still manage to hold strong to their values and dignity. The characters’ strengths and weaknesses along with the good and bad choices they make in every day circumstances make them real and unforgettable. The events that unravel in their lives are described with clarity and wisdom, making the reader feel as though they are part of the struggle.
Thoughts on the book:
In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Francie and her family struggle with extreme poverty but what seems to be the bigger and more painful struggle is trying to hold onto their dignity when all odds seem stacked against them. At one point, after the death of her husband, a pregnant Katie Nolan is faced with the realization that despite her family’s ability to go without there still might not be enough money for food. She discusses the options with her sisters, who are also struggling to make ends meet; when one suggests that she should accept a charity basket, Katie’s answer is a serious one, “…I’ll plug up the doors and windows and wait until the children are sound asleep and then turn on every gas jet in the house.”
A question that kept coming to my mind is:
In the face of the worst hardships, is maintaining dignity what separates us from the animals and defines what it means to have a strong character or does the fight for survival justify forsaking such characteristics?
“That means there must be something bigger than money…It was education that made the difference! Education would pull them out of the grime and dirt.”
–Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn