A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
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I feel like I was the only person who hadn’t heard of the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The New York Public Library selected it as one of the books of the century, and Anna Quindlen considered it one of the most beloved in its cannon. So I guess my first question is where have I been to have missed this one?

Maybe it is because when asked what the book is about there is no quick plot line to regurgitate. It is, put simply, a story about life.  Containing the elements of birth, death, marriage, and war —  the experiences of life leading to growth as a human. Much like a tree growing in the crowded and poverty-stricken world of a 1900 Brooklyn, Betty Smith shares the reality of how hard it was to grow up in the city of her birth.

While Smith never admitted the book to be her autobiography, it is a logical assumption because of the many undeniable similarities between her own life and the heroine Francie Nolan. This assumption made me feel a little more connected to Francie and her family.   

There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn.  Some people call it a Tree of Heaven.  No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky.”  -Betty Smith

I will admit, with all the hype about the book I had a hard time getting into it.  Divided into five books with an average of 60 pages per book, I was finally drawn in by the beginning of book two where the story actually begins. The Nolan’s hardships broke my heart, and their determination to surpass the most difficult of trials made me cheer them on. In my mind they are an example of learning, growing, defying the odds.

As a classic of the 20th century, I felt the realities of life were artfully portrayed. If, like me, you haven’t had the chance to pick this one up yet — consider adding it to your list of must reads.

This is a book in which, no matter what our backgrounds, we recognize ourselves. - Anna Quindlen Click To Tweet

4/5 stars – mild language

Some of my favorite passages

We are Unique

“Part of her was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard…She was all of these things and something more that did not come from the Rommelys nor the Nolans, the reading, the observing, the living from day to day.  It was something that had been born into her and only her – the something different from anyone else in the two families.  It was what God puts into each soul that is given life – the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints.” (73)

Imagination

“The child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination.  The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe.  She must start out by believing in things, not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth.  Only be having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.” (84)

Growth

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating.  It gets no sun, and water only when it rains.  It’s growing out of sour earth.  And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.” (95)

Opposition

“There had to be the dark and muddy waters so that the sun could have something to background its flashing glory.” (165)

The Sordid Truth

“Walking home from school, Francie tried to figure the whole thing out. She knew Miss Garnder wasn’t mean. She had spoken for Francie’s good. Only it didn’t seem good to Francie. She began to understand that her life might seem revolting to some educated people.  She wondered, when she got educated, whether she’d be ashamed of her background.  Would she be ashamed of her people; ashamed of handsome Papa who had been so lighthearted, kind and understanding; ashamed of brave and truthful Mama who was so proud of her own mother, even though Granma couldn’t read or write; ashamed of Neeley who was such a good honest boy? No! No! If being educated would make her ashamed of what she was, then she wanted none of it. “But I’ll show Miss Garnder,” she vowed, “I’ll show her I’ve got an imagination.  I certainly will show her.” (325)

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like I was the only person who hadn’t heard of the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The New York Public Library selected it as one of the books of the century, and Anna Quindlen considered it one of the most beloved in its cannon. So I guess my first question is where have I been to have missed this one?

Maybe it is because when asked what the book is about there is no quick plot line to regurgitate. It is, put simply, a story about life.  Containing the elements of birth, death, marriage, and war —  the experiences of life leading to growth as a human. Much like a tree growing in the crowded and poverty-stricken world of a 1900 Brooklyn, Betty Smith shares the reality of how hard it was to grow up in the city of her birth.

While Smith never admitted the book to be her autobiography, it is a logical assumption because of the many undeniable similarities between her own life and the heroine Francie Nolan. This assumption made me feel a little more connected to Francie and her family.

I will admit, with all the hype about the book I had a hard time getting into it.  Divided into five books with an average of 60 pages per book, I was finally drawn in by the beginning of book two where the story actually begins. The Nolan’s hardships broke my heart, and their determination to surpass the most difficult of trials made me cheer them on. In my mind they are an example of learning, growing, defying the odds.

Check out the complete review on https://www.choosingwisdom.org/book-r…

View all my reviews

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I’m a wife, mother, friend, and storyteller. I have a love for learning, giggling with my grandson and tandem biking with my husband. I believe wisdom goes beyond being smart or having basic knowledge. It is the culmination of experiences that help us become. While each of our challenges may be unique, we have the opportunity to choose how we will react, learn and grow. My journey has taught me that I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a voice to share what I’ve learned. Life can either teach us or defeat us – the choice is ours.

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