Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This novel is the coming-of-age story of Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the century. The first thing that grabbed me about this book was the setting. Smith, who grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the daughter of German immigrants, eloquently describes the harsh, poverty stricken  world in which Francie grows up. Through Francie’s young eyes, Williamsburg is a wonderful, enchanting place. As she watches her family struggle to get by as her father battles alcoholism Francie loses much her childhood innocence. This, however, is a story of hope  and resilience that persists in the worst circumstances and of a family that refuses to give up. Like the best historical novels, it teaches us about the past, and in doing so makes us think about the present.

“Dear God,” she prayed, “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.” 
― Betty SmithA Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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