Lori's Reviews > A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  Smith
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May 30, 12

bookshelves: book-club-reads, most-memorable-reads
Read from April 28 to May 29, 2012

Thank you Betty Smith for writing this book. For a story written in 1943 set in 1912, it's message and theme continues current to today. How, through the eyes of a child, the most mundane, the most ugly, the most deprived of anything beautiful can appear magical and, as one matures and begins to see things for what they really are, still manages to see past the ugliness to the beauty of what life, at any moment, has to offer. The story of Francie Nolan offers this to us. A young girl (just 11 when the book starts) living in the most abject poverty, selling junk with her brother for pennies some of which has to go to feed their family, views life with a thoughtful and appreciative eye. The passage where she is visiting the neighborhood stores is wonderful. Again showing how the most mundane can seem beautiful in the eyes of a child: "The tea man had a wonderful pair of scales: two gleaming brass plates which had been rubbed and polished daily for more than twenty-five years until now they were thin and delicate and looked like burnished gold. When Francie bought a pound of coffee or an ounce of pepper she watched while a polished silver block with the weight mark was placed in one scale and the fragrant purchase was conveyed gently by means of a silver like scoop into the other. Francie, watching, held her breath while the scoop dropped in a few more grains or gently eased some out. It was a beautiful peaceful second when both golden plates were stilled and stood there in perfect balance. It was as if nothing wrong could happen in a world where things balanced so stilly". For so little that happens in this story, so much is told. The main characters, Francie, her brother Neely, her mother, father and two aunts are wonderfully developed, admirable but fallible and real. The secondary characters like McGarrity, McShane and Uncle Willie are also poignant pictorials of human feelings, dreams and desires like McGarrity's longing to have a woman to talk to who listens. The chronology of Francie's life as she grows from child to woman is a timeless tale of hope, optimism and the inevitability of facing and accepting reality as we grow and mature. A wonderful book I strongly recommend for anyone of any age.

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