Thursday, May 14, 2009

Babbling about Books--Thursday

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
(1943) Latest reprint and release (2006)

My stepmother is 72. She loves to read and her all-time favorite book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She has raved about the book ever since I first met her. It was released in 1943 and became a national bestseller. It was made into a movie—a sure sign it was great.

I remember reading it a long time ago. At the time, I didn’t feel it was a “great” book. I remember thinking it was sort of boring. I wondered why my mom thought it was so wonderful.

However, recently I have heard a new buzz about it from my book club. I saw it on the end cap at Borders. It has been re-released. So, I thought I would give it a try again. I downloaded it to my i-pod and listened to it. (The New York accents were perfect in the audio version and made it come to life.) I do not know whether life has brought me new perspective, but this time I truly enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

The book relates the coming-of-age story of its main character, Francie Nolan, and her family struggling against poverty in Brooklyn. The novel is set in the first and second decades of the 20th century, so it is pre-World War I. It begins with a very young Francie struggling to keep her idealism alive in the face of grinding poverty, the comedies and tragedies of ordinary life. Her mother Katie is a realistic woman who works as a janitor in their tenement to make ends meet. Her father Johnny is an alcoholic singing waiter who is more of a dreamer. Along with her brother Neeley, the four of them live in a poor apartment in Brooklyn.

There is a tree that grows outside the tenement of the Nolan home. Francie relates to the tree struggling to living in the abject poverty until she is in late teens. It is a book that proves the truth of Proverbs 13:12.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (NIV)

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it in audio format. If you decide to give it a read,or if you have read it, let me know your thoughts.


Kelly said...

A few years back a friend said A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of her favorites. I bought the audio version and so loved the story. I've relistened many times. I was disappointed in the movie, it just doesn't have the voice of the audio.

This will be a must to share with my daughter in a few years. Glad you also enjoyed.

Kelly J Eveleth

Margaret said...

I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in high school. That's interesting that it has been re-released. I'll have to re-visit it this summer. Thanks.

Crystal said...

When I was a girl (pre-teen) a great-aunt who was a retired teacher gave this book to me (in paperback format). I devoured it - several times. Finally it fell apart, and I remember being so sad! Now that I know it is re-released, I will have to get it for my three girls.

I still have the hardback books that this much-loved aunt gave me (a book for every birthday and Christmas). It brings me such joy to see my girls enjoying the same books that I did when I was their age. These are true classics!