Book 1: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (By Betty Smith)
Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Summary: About a little girl at the turn of the 20th century, living in Williamsburg with parents barely out of their teenage years and in poverty. Through the eyes of little Francie Nolan, you will experience the hardships she faced with tremendous courage, the events that forced her to grow up before her time, and the overwhelming power of family. Your heart will break at watching a little girl so young and naive get pulled into abject poverty by birth, not choice. But most importantly, you will smile at her imagination and her wisdom far beyond her age.
The Good: Betty Smith did such a good job portraying the world of Brooklyn through the eyes of a young girl. Even though her writing suited the age of the heroine, she sprinkled bits and pieces of her own voice and wisdom in between all of the youthful glow of Francie’s world. By the end of the book, you will wish more than anything for it not to end because it brings an end to your partaking in the Nolan family. This family that you will feel that you have grown to be a part of, so endearing is Betty’s writing. Poverty, death (oops, spoiler alert?), hardship, and pain doesn’t have to mean a sad, depressing book. Those horrible things are seen through a child’s eyes, which means her innocent way of looking at the world around her, her ability to find joy in the smallest things and her being so full-of-life all contribute to making such horrendous reality heartwarming and endearing. When you read this book, you feel the suffering yes, but it is usually taken away by the extraordinary power of children to find happiness in every situation and by the love that drives parents to sacrifice so much for their children. You will most certainly shed some tears, whether for their suffering or the unbelievable miracles that can only come out of pain and hardship.
The Rotten: The ending, how abruptly the family was pulled out of their hard situation. It made sense, but it was just all so quick. Their way of life turned a complete 180 and I felt somewhat uncomfortable with the rapid change. Also, what can I say, I have a love-hate relationship with bittersweet endings. Other than that, the only small complaint I have is that sometimes Betty puts in too much description. My brain automatically skims over descriptive writing. I just don’t prefer it.
Best Enjoyed: Anywhere, anytime, you will be absorbed into the story the minute you open the book.
Fate of the Book: Taken with me back to home base in Canada, where it will be lent to any friends or family who expresses interest in it.
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came in adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.”
“Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere–be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”