Samantha's Reviews > A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  Smith
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really liked it
Read 2 times. Last read March 8, 2021 to March 20, 2021.

Bittersweet is probably the best adjective for this classic book.

We follow a girl (and her family and community) from birth to young adulthood, through poverty and heartache, grief and loss, heartbreak and joy. It's one of those books where nothing exactly happens--describing the plot would be a lot of "and then" without a build to a particular event--but you're engaged anyway, because you become so invested in the emotions of the characters.

Francie Nolan is one of those bookish girls in books who speaks to many of us bookish girls out here in the real world. In that way she's a Jo March or an Anne of Green Gables, but her story is drawn more realistically, without shying away from of romanticizing the hardships.

Her tale is one of determination, perseverance in the face setbacks, and fierce loyalties. At the same time, it captures a time and place in gorgeous detail, making me feel like I understand what it would have been like to live that life.

I'd read this book at least once before, and I remembered that I thought it beautiful, but didn't really remember much about the story. Since I was younger then, I probably focused on the kids. On this read, I was struck by the absolute sympathy with which all the adult characters were portrayed. Flaws were not hidden, but nor did people become reduced to only a collection of their flaws.

I was struck this time by the passages about how reading and education were the key to making a better life for immigrant children, and by the sweet romantic and pragmatic relationship between the Mom (Katie) and Sargeant McShane, a bit that comes very late in the book.

Maybe it's because I'm living a second chance romance myself, but I really loved the vision of how Katie's life was about to get a little easier and how she might find a gentle, comfortable, reliable love now. The contrast to the youthful passion of her relationship with Johnny was beautifully rendered, and I feel both of these as love.

Highly recommended. The only reason it doesn't get five stars from me is because I found it a little slow paced in places and unnecessarily repetitive in others.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 27, 2012 – Shelved
March 8, 2021 – Started Reading
March 20, 2021 – Finished Reading

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