Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

My good friend, UK Rachel, is doing an online book club by ways of reader reviews.  I love.  I skipped October because I was in a funk, plain and simple, but I'm back and ready to review my all time favorite book which I reread right before the trip.

A good family friend gave me my first copy of A Tree and I have probably read it about 7 times since receiving it in 7th grade.  When people ask me why I like it, I can't exactly say.  The writing is good, the plot is easy to follow, the characters are simple, and there is no big plot twist or reveal that keeps you in suspense.  I think I like it because it is everything that today's movies, TV and books are all about.  That's also probably why I can read it over and over again.  I love how the author, Betty Smith, interprets a world of poverty, survival, and familial love.  Ah, I love this book!  

It is set in Brooklyn from 1909 - 1917 and is the story of the Nolan family, told primarily from Francie's perspective.  They are poor, but they make it.  Katie, the mother, is the janitress of the tenement building in which they live and Johnny, the father, is an occasional singing waiter who contributes his wages to the family and drinks away his tips.  Francie is the first born and is very smart and observant.  She sees miracles and beauty where most people would turn up their nose.  Neeley (Cornelius) is next and much to Francie's chagrin, fits in too well with the rag tag boys of the neighborhood.

This is a story of their lives.  Like how during the week Francie and Neeley scour the street and building garbage room for bits of tin, copper, rags and such to sell to the junk man on Saturdays.  When they drag their junk to be sold they have to bear the shame of kids taunting them with, "Rag picker!  Rag picker!", even though those kids had just dropped off their junk and had a few coins burning a hole in their pockets.  The money they get from him buys them a few sweets from the penny candy man.  

I don't really know how to write a review for something so special to me.  I have read it so many times I feel like it's a part of who I am.  If any of you ever get around to reading it, please let me know what you think!  Cheers!

(more to come on my trip later)
(love you)


Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much for playing!! I'll post the round-up on Thursday :)
I love "A tree grows in Brooklyn" too, though I only managed to read it for the first time a couple of years ago. It's out of print here. Guess who celebrated her first ever trip to Barnes&Noble this September with a certain purchase?? Thankyou, America, my bookshelf is a better place because of you.
Also, love "UK Rachel". My new superhero name. Fact.

Rachael said...

This is my favorite favorite favorite book. And I've never met anyone who appriciates it the way I do. Now I have! (sort of) Yay!

I got my first copy for a quarter at a yard sale when I was 13 and bored stiff at my grandparents' for two whole weeks. The cousins weren't even there. I read that paperback into the ground. The cover came off, pages fell out every time I picked it up. When I was 18, my mom found me a beautiful collectors edition at a used bookstore and gave it to me for Christmas. I think that one might get read into the ground also.