Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith


Honestly this is what reading is about. A novel that grips you from you start emotionally and doesn’t let go. A literary novel that is beautifully written, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a classic piece that can be read over and over again. This novel is so much more than about a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, it’s about the human condition and the strain of the American dream on low economic conditions. There is a simplicity in the writing, yet the emotions of the characters are complex and thought provoking.

“Dear God, 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.”

Francie Nolan is a young girl living in Brooklyn during the 1900’s and grows up living in poverty for the majority of it. The novel follows her life and her family’s life closely, narrating the rise and fall of their hardships and small successes. Francie Nolan is a bright and intelligent girl who has to constantly sacrifice her desires for the good of the family. Betty Smith’s ability to create a world where it is fictional yet tangibly real is uncanny. Francie is emotional, strong, pensive, independent, caring-she is all of us. The hard and poverty stricken life of Francie does not tell the reader to feel sympathetic, yet there is a quiet undercurrent of hope that Smith places in the novel, leaving the readers to seek it on their own. The metaphor of the story was intricately woven in the story without it being overt . A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age story that identifies many historical, economic, and social contexts.

There is just so much that I love about this novel. It’s truly a remarkable read and I was constantly reminded of why I like to read. Although it’s lengthy, every page had it’s own heartbreak and special gem folded inside.  Smith’s writing really captures the essence of 1900’s and the characters are so honest. It’s definitely going on my favorite reads list! I would recommended this novel to anyone who loves a literary historical novel or anyone who has a pension  for finely written lit. I loved every bit of this novel, and I’m sad it’s over.


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