A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Introduction
In A Nutshell
We're going to start you off with a list of people who have read and loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:
- Soldiers in the trenches during World War II
- Oprah Winfrey
- Shmoop, and every other teacher on the planet
- Chances are decent, your mom
But why all the buzz? Why does this novel written the 1940s about life in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Williamsburg, Brooklyn capture so many people’s undying devotion to this day?
Maybe it is something about Francie Nolan, the protagonist. She’s pretty cool, but not in a way that makes her popular. In fact, she is pretty lonely most of the time. Instead, Francie is cool in the way that confident and driven people are cool, and she defies a lot of odds by making it out of a mean life of poverty—an impressive feat in its own right that's even more impressive since she's a young girl in a time when expectations for what girls achieve do were pretty low.
People might find it easy to relate to Francie as she goes through the difficulties of growing up. Let’s face it: growing up is filled with disappointments and uncertainties—peppered with awesome moments of excitement and thrills. This seems to be true for just about everybody, whether they grew up in 1913, 1963, or the 21st century.
It’s more than just a story about Francie and growing up, though. This book takes an honest look at the love and struggles within family. It is a hopeful tale about people who have the ability to change their lives through hard work and determination, and it is a pretty accurate depiction about was it was like to be a poor immigrant living at this time.
Although it is easy to believe that this is the story of Betty Smith’s young life, she was adamant that this isn’t her autobiography and often said that she wrote A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the way things should have been, not as they actually were. It really doesn't matter, though, because A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is such a solid tale that Francie Nolan (and some of the other characters, too) just might stick with you for a long time after you finish the book. We guess you could say they'll take root in your heart… get it? Good, now let's get started.
Why Should I Care?
As you probably know by now, life is just unfair at times. There is no denying that some have it way easier than others, and Francie is one of those who has it pretty tough:
- She’s very poor.
- She’s a girl before the women’s movement.
- Her father’s an alcoholic.
- Her mother likes her brother better.
- She is a victim of violence.
- We could go on and on here, but let’s save you some surprises.
There’s no doubt that this list could be her pass to a psychologist’s office where she could lament and whine about how thoroughly and completely awful her life is.
That's not Francie's style, though. She is a glass half-full type, so instead of focusing on all the negatives, she sees the beauty that is all around her. There is magic in Brooklyn, and she wants to show it to you.
Chances are good that you have some stuff in your life that is unfair. Reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn may help you realize that life can be magical anyway though, that there is beauty all around us when we let ourselves see it.