A Tree Grows, A Book Ends

Part of me loves the feeling of finishing a book. Often it feels like an accomplishment. It can be exciting, especially when you think of picking out a new book. But sometimes, it can be a bit sad.

Not all endings are happy.

I just finished reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.This book landed somewhere in the middle. I've had this book for ages. For as long as I can remember my mom was telling me to read it. I can even hear her say, "Oh, that's a great book, you'll love it." My mom knows me better than anyone else, but I think it's safe to say that when it comes to books, she doesn't have a clue.

I didn't hate this book, but it's not a favorite of mine, it didn't change my life, the story wasn't outstanding. Overall, it's not a book I'd recommend, but I didn't hate it. Imagine, I just spent two weeks reading 500 pages of someone else's thoughts and my opinion of it is "indifferent."

If you haven't read this book before, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was written through the eyes of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. The protagonist, Francie, comments on her family and the society around her while sharing her aspirations to be a writer. Francie is the rare artist that is able to find beauty in truth and in the constant ugliness that surrounds her. Though I didn't care much for the story (I can't be bothered much with naturalism), it is only fair to acknowledge the quality of language Smith uses in telling this tale. On almost every page there is at least one quote that when extracted holds a bit of concise wisdom.

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One thing I did take away from the book though was the idea of neighborhood. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, I don't really feel the connection to a "neighborhood," like many people who grow  up in the city. This book truly romanticized Brooklyn. She grew up so poor that she had to collect metal scraps to trade for pennies, and she speaks frankly of being hungry, yet, there is a sense of nostalgia and gratitude for her home in the great neighborhood she loves almost as much as her family itself. To me the concept is so foreign, it's as if the novel takes place on the other side of the world rather than a short bus trip away.

Of course a hundred years ago, isn't exactly next door.

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