Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Title A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By Betty Smith
For Book club
Pages 494
Recommended by Suey & Kim and just about everyone else.

First sentence Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.

A story about a young girl and her family living in the slums of Brooklyn at the turn of the century and spanning to WWI.

General thoughts
Well, for those of you who thought I wouldn't make it, that I'd be too tempted to play my new Wii instead of finish this book I say, HA! It took me all day yesterday but I finished it. I have mixed feelings, though. I loved the book. I loved that in each character you could find something to love and something to hate. That's so incredibly true in reality, and was captured so well here, that I think that became my favorite thing about the book. I also loved the slow reminiscing feel of it. I smiled a lot, had a touch of heart ache and even burst into sobs at one point. My only problem with the book was I kept wondering if it was so close to the author's own life why didn't she just right it as a memoir? After I finished the book I read the forward (backwards, I know) and found out it was originally written as a memoir but upon request of the editor was made into fiction. That made me feel better, but then I started wondering how much was fiction and how much was truth? When she changed it into a fiction did she embellish or just change the names???  It doesn't tell you and that bothered me to no end!!!

As I said before, I loved that each character had something to love and something to hate about them. I think Johnny and Sissy were my favorites but I don't know if I'm completely sure about that. If I forget the story, and I probably will, I won't forget these characters and how they made me feel.

Would I recommend it? 
Yes, this one should be read. If for nothing else but the perfectly flawed characters and the hundreds of messages to be taken away.


  1. Love this book. I've read it at least five times. You should read Joy in the Morning, also by Betty Smith. It's a favorite, too.

  2. I've been trying to research this very thing today, but not finding out much. She changed names to protect her relatives. She changed their heritage from German to Irish (since it was published during WWII) and maybe a few other things. Much of it is how her life actually went I think. She says, when asked if it is a true story... "it's not how it was, but how it should have been." Something taken right from the book, right?

    Glad you liked it though.

  3. One of my all-time favorites! I love the flawed characters, too; for how real the people were.
    I love how her relationship with/understanding of her mother grew over time.

  4. I'm glad you loved it, too. I just finished it recently and was so awed at how tenderly she portrays her family, flaws and all. I like the way you put it, Perfectly flawed. So true. I cried when she got graduation flowers from Papa. omg :'( it gives me goosebumps even now lol.

    I know it's classified as 'fiction' - but really, that's only a word. Writing that honest can only have come from her own heart and experience.

  5. I did not realize the author information, but it does not bother me much. The story itself is so good that I think it outweighs the author question...fiction vs fact. I read it as fiction, but a reality that it could be. I think this book really highlights the struggle of families with little means...pretty much nothing...and how they cope. For that reason, it is placed on my list of Must Reads...books that I hope my children read at some point.

  6. Jessica, I'll have to read that one too.

    Suey, I know! I couldn't find anything on it. It's driving me crazy. Did she embellish her memoir? Or embellish it only after it got changed to fiction? Or was it embellished at all? Argh!!!

    Megan, Yes, I loved how her relationship with her mother grew. One of my favorite things.

    Trish, Hey! That's when I cried too. And not just a few tears. I started sobbing! So heartbreakingly sweet!

  7. Yay! I like the way you worded your description of it... "slow reminiscing feel". I've been considering this one to read for my classics challenge. Are you playing on the Wii now? ;)

  8. Jessica, Wow, thanks. Yes, I set up the Wii this morning and played a round of Mario Kart. I also bought some Wii points so I can get some old classic games. ;)

  9. Do you own this one? I'd like to read it. I saw a movie of it when I was a teenager I think but don't remember a thing.If you have it I'd like to borrow it. I know this was long enough ago that you'll probably never see my post.