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Rory Book Discussions > A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

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message 1: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Mar 15, 2008 10:13PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Who's read it? Discuss what you thought about it. How does Francie Nolan's "coming-of-age" compare/contrast to the end of innocence for the boys at Devon?


message 2: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany *Spoliers*




Here is a quote from Chapter 6 that I thought described the Nolans pretty well:

The Nolans just couldn’t get enough of life. They lived their own lives up to the hilt but that wasn’t enough. They had to fill in on the lives of all the people they made contact with.

I really loved Francie’s little family. They lived very humbly (to put it mildly) but they still seemed vibrant and optimistic, or at least that's how Katie and Johnny tried to make it seem to Francis and Neely. In a time and place where most people were just trying to survive Katie especially tried to give the kids a little something extra. Even though they were poor Katie allowed Francie to pour out her coffee to feel how it would be to have lots of money and not have to worry about scrounging. And Katie devotedly followed her mother’s advice to read the Bible and Shakespeare so that the kids will grow up knowing of what is great – knowing that these tenements of Williamsburg are not the whole world.



message 3: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay This is one of my all-time favourite books, one I can read over and over again, and each time find a new little nugget of beauty! Being a librarian, Francie's visits to the library always stand out for me:

"Each week Francie made the same request and eack week the librarian asked the same question. A name on a card meant nothing to her and since she never looked up into a child's face, she never did get to know the little girl who took a book out every day and two on Saturday. A smile would have meant a lot to Francie and a friendly comment would have made her so happy. She loved the library and was anxious to worship the lady in charge. But the librarian had other things on her mind. She hated children anyhow..."

How cruel! I hope to someday have a Francie of my own at my library.


message 4: by Dana Melinda (new)

Dana Melinda | 8 comments I agree. This is one of the best books I ever read!


message 5: by Arielle (new)

Arielle | 120 comments This was a wonderful book, but I don't know what to say about it for some reason.

~~Spoiler~~

One part I especially loved is the perfect mirroring of Francie watching girls get ready to go out on dates and the sullen little girl watching Francie get ready. "My name ain't Francie!...And you know it, too!"
There's some sort of literary term for that, is it maybe 'inclusio'? I'll have to look that up...
"inclusio is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section" ~~~thank you Wikipedia!


message 6: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 74 comments I've decided this is one of my all time favorite books.


message 7: by Sera (new)

Sera I'm so glad that many of you enjoyed this book. I read it in January, and I wondered how I could have bypassed this gem of a story. If you liked this story, I think that you will also enjoy The Book Thief, which I just finished. Although a very different story, there are some parallels between Francie and Liesel in each book, but TBT is more heartbreaking than ATGIB.


message 8: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I enjoyed this one, and I, too, was suprised this had escaped my reading prior to now. (See my review if you want to compare notes.) I liked this story decidedly better than A Separate Peace, because it felt more hopeful and optimistic at the end. It was actually inspiring rather than...well, depressing. I know ASP is meant to be "real", but sometimes you have to believe in happy endings, too. :)


message 9: by Liz (new)

Liz | 35 comments I thoroughly enjoyed ATGIB. It has been awhile since I have read a book that was just a great story. I liked reading about the Nolans life and loved how I felt familiar and almost at home with the characters. I also loved how despite not having much Francie & Neely still felt like they had everyhting in the world. What a model family!! This will be a book to reread for me many times.


message 10: by Sarah (last edited Mar 27, 2008 02:20PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I'm only on chapter 2 but so far I've underlined so many passages, I could never post them all. Here are just a few:

I think it's good that people like us can waste something once in a while and get the feeling of how it would be to have lots of money and not have to worry about scrounging.

She was richer because she had something to waste.

What an idea! I love it. They're poor but they feel blessed because they're not so poor that they can't dump a cup of coffee down the drain.

Yes, when I get big and have my own home, no plush chairs and lace curtains for me. And no rubber plants. I'll have a desk like this in my parlor and white walls and a clean green blotter every Saturday night and a row of shining yellow pencils always sharpened for writing and a golden-brown bowl with a flower or some leaves or berries always in it and books . . . books . . . books. . . .
This reminded me of the little reading nook I am planning in my spare bedroom, as did the fire escape scene when she arranges a comfy place to read and look out over the neighborhood.

Francie held the books close and hurried home, resisting the temptation to sit on the first stoop she came to, to start reading.
How many times have I felt that way on my way home from the bookstore? Sometimes I don't even make it out of the store - that's why I love bookstores with cafes and comfy armchairs.

To know that he was away was almost as good as getting a birthday present.
This sentence just made me smile.


message 11: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Mar 27, 2008 02:41PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Great passages. ATGIB is definetely a book-lover's story.


message 12: by Nicole (new)

Nicole | 38 comments I adore this book, and could read it over and over.


message 13: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Nicole, your post made me smile -- I also adored this book and have read it several times -- last time somewhere around ten years ago.

I've enjoyed reading the responses to this one here, everyone, glad to see this one find a new audience as it seems to me a classic in the sense that it tells something about the small people who added themselves to thsi country's history through the years. The factor of the ordinary people seems to me to often be what gets lopped off as history becomes too hefty -- and the same seems to happen with literature and such 'small' stories get lost. I think that without these to fill out the picture we lose a great deal both in our shared past and in the history which is woven from it.


message 14: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Apr 05, 2008 09:28PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Nice, Dottie. I agree the heart of this book is finding beauty in everyday life, in ordinary people. The "haves" in this novel (vs. the "have-nots") are actually painted to be less interesting, less happy people. In a world where material possessions are valued and revered, I have to say the value of simple things and the magic of our imagination gets lost. I think this is a great book for people who work with young people, or parents (among others). It reminds us that children are resilient and find pleasure in family and simple things. And you can value learning and instill that in your children without being a millionaire. Like I said, a very hopeful story!


message 15: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 197 comments I'm really enjoying this one so far. When I was in Florida I went to a used bookstore and asked about the book, they didn't have a copy but 3 or 4 peole went on and on about how much they loved the book. I'm really glad we're reading this one and can't believe I haven't read it before now.


message 16: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments Sarah:
I loved thinking about the fire escape, too. It almost made me wish I lived there. A way to feel secluded and in your own world while still being able to occasionally glance out at what is happening in the great outdoors. Sigh.


message 17: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I have to tell you, I have fallen in love with little Francie! Was there ever a girl so sweet? So simple and pure? I just want to hug her.

I'm on chapter 17 and I think this is going to become one of my very favorite books. I don't want to read it too fast because I really want to savor it.

This may sound like a strange comparison, but to me this book is reminiscent of Steinbeck. Both use simple language. Both are beautifully descriptive. Both write about the human condition. Both understand and are sympathetic to the downtrodden.

Believe me, coming from me, this is high praise.


message 18: by Sera (new)

Sera Alison, thank you for your post on the hopefulness of the story and the lessons learned. It is a such a strong story, and I am glad that we read this in our book club, especially because so many people are really enjoying it. It is definitely a classic.


message 19: by Sara W (new)

Sara W (sarawesq) What I love about this book club is that it's getting me to read books I might never get around to reading. ATGIB was one of those books that I knew about, and it crossed my mind that I should read it, but I probably never would have gotten to it (if you saw my to-read shelf, you would understand why). I absolutely loved this book! It reminded me a lot of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (but much less depressing!). I think I got that impression because of the time period and class status of the people involved. I had pretty much stopped reading fiction (unless it was well-researched historical fiction) before I joined this group, but I'm really glad to be reading great novels like this one.


message 20: by Sera (new)

Sera Sara, you are so right. I was just telling a friend that this book club is focusing my attention on reading the classics. I certainly wouldn't be reading so many, and I am really enjoying it. I have such an appreciate for the works and the discussions that we have in this club. Rory would be proud!


message 21: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I just finished it and I cried and cried! I was so sad to leave Francie.

This is my new favorite book.


message 22: by kate (new)

kate (kadence) | 15 comments same here, i pretty much fell in love with everything that had to do with the nolans.


message 23: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I know!

SPOILER:

Even though it had been alluded to and foreshadowed through the whole book, I was still really sad when Johnny died. He was Francie's only friend, as imperfect as he was.

I sort of felt like, by reading her story, I was there for Francie, helping to make her a little less lonely.


message 24: by Sarah (last edited Mar 31, 2008 07:59PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) OK, a couple more passages I just loved:

Flossie was always running after men and they were always running away from her. Francie's Aunt Sissy ran after men too. But somehow they ran to meet her halfway.

Hassler was a fine butcher for bones but he was a bad butcher for the chopped meat because he ground it behind closed doors and God knows what you got. (Ew!!)

She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk.

Francie stood on tiptoe and stretched her arms wide. "Oh, I want to hold it all!" she cried. "I want to hold the way the night is -- cold without wind. And the way the stars are so near and shiny. I want to hold all of it tight until it hollers out, 'Let me go! Let me go!'"
And that is why I love Francie.

"Send Francie. The last time I asked for sauerkraut he chased me out of the store," complained Neeley.
"You've got to ask for Liberty Cabbage now, you dope," said Francie.
"Don't call each other names," chided Katie absentmindedly.
"Did you know they changed Hamburg Avenue to Wilson Avenue?" asked Francie.
"War makes people do funny things," sighed Katie.

"Liberty Cabbage" reminded me of "Freedom Fries."


message 25: by Nicole (last edited Apr 01, 2008 07:59PM) (new)

Nicole | 38 comments Sarah - I'm so glad you posted this. This book had so many amazing quotes that it was so hard to remember them all, and if I wrote out all the ones that stood out to me, it would be close to writing out most of the book. Thanks for posting those! This one especially makes me smile:
Francie stood on tiptoe and stretched her arms wide. "Oh, I want to hold it all!" she cried. "I want to hold the way the night is -- cold without wind. And the way the stars are so near and shiny. I want to hold all of it tight until it hollers out, 'Let me go! Let me go!'"



message 26: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments OK I finally just finished this book, I got it late. I love this book. I love the feeling of family. I loved Francie's relationship with her dad... it reminds me of my relationship with mine, he is the world to me! I love how the teacher didn't like her writing and she burned what the teacher thought of as good. I want more! I got so involved with the characters I am dying to know what happens to Francie, does she end up with Ben? I thought her mother was a great mother in trying to teach her children morals. What Katie might have thought was right (even though it wasn't always) she tried her best to get her children to live life right. I just loved this book.


message 27: by Sara W (new)

Sara W (sarawesq) Some of you may be interested in reading Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. From what I gather, it can almost be read as a sequel to ATGIB. Even though the characters are different, both books were based on the author's life. It seems like it picks up from where ATGIB leaves off - the main character marries and moves from Brooklyn to a midwestern state (I think Michigan) because her husband (also from Brooklyn) is a lawyer or law student there. If you substitute Francie and Ben for the characters in the book, it seems like you can find out what happens. I haven't read Joy in the Morning yet, so I'm not sure if it reads well as a potential sequel, but I pieced together this info from the end notes in ATGIB, the back of Joy and reviews of Joy on Amazon.


message 28: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments Thanks Sara! I am going to check it out!


message 29: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 197 comments Just finished last night. I loved this book, totally loved it. The story is so simple but with so many little details.

The whole part about Lee made my stomach flip. I thought it was interesting that Katie told Francie that as a mother she would have told her she shouldn't have slept with him but as a woman she thinks it would have been a beautiful thing because you only love like that once. I had a hard time believing that Lee really did love Francie, it just felt like a ploy to try and get her to sleep with him. Maybe he really did have feelings for her but just didn't know how to get out of his engagement, still, what a pig!




message 30: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments After reading the book I felt the same way about Lee. I don't think he loved her like she loved him. Infact I also got the feeling he just wanted to sleep with her. I did feel bad for Francie though. I remember my first love! And I sure am glad I didn't end up with that guy, but my heart was so broke. Though my mom would not say what Katie said! She would've said I made a good decision. I love how the story was so simple.. just so true to life!


message 31: by Becca (new)

Becca | 26 comments So, I finished this one quite late. I had a little trouble getting through the beginning of book two, but overall it was fantastic. I enjoyed the way some major events and smaller anecdotes of the Nolans' lives were strung together in a way that painted a really full picture of them.

Sara and Sera, I agree with you both about the book club inspiring me to read classic stuff I would have overlooked otherwise. I also like having what I'm going to read picked out for me. I used to waste a lot of time in between books, trying to figure out what I was in the mood to read next. Now I can read more because I don't have to wrestle with so many choices.


message 32: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 50 comments I meant to come in and post a while back, but... count me in.. This is one of my new favorite books. I love it more than Little Women.

I want to be the kind of mother that Katie is. She's so open and loving and strong, and that strength is described in a way I don't know that I've ever read before. She's funny and carefree at times, and knows by God what's important! I was so stunned by the pouring out coffee line, because it was such a simple thing, but the impact was HUGE -- getting a moment to not feel poor. There were many moments like that in the book for me, and mostly from Katie. I feel like if you just wrote those key phrases down, you'd have one heck of a good list of rules to live life by.

I adore the whole family for their sheer persistence and willingness to step up and go get what they wanted. It made me almost wistful, how much harder it seems to get out of your place and achieve NOW than it was for Francie. Who, today, could pretend to be older, go get a job, and more than quadruple his or her earnings in a year?

Astonishing, when a family love story can make you wish you lived in the early war years of the Depression, or without a penny to your name.


message 33: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) My sentiments almost exactly, Rebecca! Great point about how much harder it is to succeed today. I hadn't thought about that.


message 34: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments It was great to see Francie advance on the basis of hard work, high intelligence and a job well-done. Seems like that also is a rare happening these days--much more about social class and who you know. Ugh.


message 35: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Agreed, Robbie!


message 36: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sezza) | 12 comments I know I'm late commenting here since I just joined the group not too long ago, but I absolutely LOVE this book. It's one of my all-time favorites. I'm a highlighting freak, so whenever I come across quotes in books that I want to remember I mark it in on the page. Needless to say, this book was a mass of highlighting! Francie's story is such an inspiration, and it's nice to see a story about a young woman who despite being poor, managed to look beyond her troubles to see a whole world full of potential.


message 37: by Robbie (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments Share a few of your favorite quotes, Sarah!


message 38: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Conn | 2 comments I, too, am late commenting here, but I just loved this book so much! I thought it was just beautiful. So glad it was on the list!


message 39: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments What has delighted me in listening in on this particular discussion is watching as so many younger women find this wonderful book and knowing that at least some of you will enthusiastically pass it to the next generation at some point.

And something I just realized -- this book in Rory's hands might seem an anomaly -- picture Lorelai's home during her childhood. But in truth, Lorelai in the years when she had a daughter to raise lived a nominally poor existence in the potting shed. But Rory when she and Emily are viewing the shed later seems to feel nothing but love for the times there while Emily is filled with guilt or repulsed at the thought they had to live there -- the Smith book is a book which would likely have been around during Lorelais' childhood and adolescence and perhaps both she and Emily read it. It's an interesting exploration of mother - daughter dynamics to contemplate Katie and Francie Nolan with Emily and Lorelai vs Lorelai and Rory.


message 40: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Good points, Dottie! I forget about their time in the shed. We need a Gilmore Girls: The Beginning series. I wanna see Lorelai with a toddler! :)


message 41: by Dottie (last edited Oct 17, 2008 04:35PM) (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Ah, now that's another series altogether, Alison! When they closed up The Independence Inn after the fire when it was decided they would not refurbish/rebuild and it would be sold was the only view we had of Lorelai and a young Rory as Lorelai remembered their early days there. The scenes were sadly sweet -- and as I think of it now they are reminiscent of the scene when Meg Ryan is walking out the door of the little book shop in You've Got Mail and in her last look sees her mother and younger self "twirling" as she had told Tom Hanks earlier they did when she was small.

I think it would have been interesting if there had been some scenes of the earlier life of Lorelai and Rory interspersed at appropriately juxtaposed moments within the current family actions -- but that would be another series, also. Interesting thought though in hindsight!


message 42: by Annabel ♥ (new)

Annabel ♥ (cinnamonbliss) | 32 comments This is one of my favorite books ever! I loved


message 43: by Annabel ♥ (new)

Annabel ♥ (cinnamonbliss) | 32 comments Francie and hearing about her life. It was really interesting because i didn't know much about that time period and what it was like in Brooklyn at that time. I think Betty Smith wrote a great book :)


message 44: by Laura (new)

Laura Pancham (songbird_laura) | 1 comments My favorite book, I'm hoping to re-read it soon! It's been a few years and I love seeing Francie grow up and all of the emotional ups and downs. A beautiful story.


message 45: by Annabel ♥ (new)

Annabel ♥ (cinnamonbliss) | 32 comments Laura wrote: "My favorite book, I'm hoping to re-read it soon! It's been a few years and I love seeing Francie grow up and all of the emotional ups and downs. A beautiful story."
Well said! one of my favorite books too!


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Joy in the Morning (other topics)

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Betty Smith (other topics)