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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty  Smith

The trees that grow in Brooklyn are those that are tough and can get by with little of the nutrients that are required by their more lovely tree cousins. As we see in the account of Francie Nolan's life, the same goes for Brooklyn's people. Though Francie and her mother are both motivated and hardworking, attempting to pull yourself out of poverty is more difficult than most of us can imagine.

There's a lot to love about Francie. She writes, loves the library despite its unfriendly librarian, and is staunchly devoted to her family. It's a family with much character, bringing the first decades of the 1900s vividly to life. Johnny, Francie's music loving father, wasn't made of strong enough stuff for the situation he was born into, but her mother, Katie, proved that a mother's love can drive a person to do more than they ever thought possible.

So, why only 3.5 stars? Unfortunately, though filled with quality writing, some poignant truths, and well developed characters, this novel simply has no plot. I was even prepared for this, as the introduction stated that it has been called "a book about nothing," but I still was disappointed in the end.

In fact, I was ready to give this book 4 stars until the ending. It was as though the author just decided to stop writing. Francie is not properly grown up enough for it to be a true "coming of age" story, and there is no "big moment." Just no more chapters. I can handle a book about nothing when it is filled with great reminders of another age and truths about the human condition, but I guess I do at least need an ending to be satisfied.