A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Book 1, 2012

This is another that falls into the category of, “Books that everyone read in school. Except me.”   I’ve been stalling on reading it for awhile, because everyone said it was so sad.  Started with the audio book and finished on the airplane – boy are Brooklyn accents harsh.

Eh.  I’ve read worse.  (SPOILERS)

The novel follows a family living in poverty in Brooklyn, mostly during the years preceding WWI.  If you don’t count the infant mortality rate of women that can’t afford medical care (and I don’t because it only indirectly affects our main characters), the saddest thing that happens is the daddy drinks himself to death.  It is a tragedy, but we are also told this way in advance.  Also, there is so much forshadowing of the event that an 11-year old could see it.  Since an 11-year old would be the intended audience.  I was braced for it.

There is also a terrible, terrible moment when a 15 year old girl has to decide whether to take a promotion that would make her more money than her fmaily has ever seen before..or go to high school in the fall.  Seriously, I found that family discussion more tense than anything else in the story.

I was very interested to read the mother’s consistent feelings about taking charity.  She would rather starve.  And have her children starve.  I am not sure if this was a matter of “a different time” or the immigrant experience, but it was striking. 

I also appreciated the running demonstrations of the ways teachers can make or break the aspirations of children.

I loved this book.  Loved. 

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