January 2, 2010

Literary Pick (**** 1/2)

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

After having finished reading a lengthy Russian novel, I found this American novel to be tranquil and comforting right from the start. It seemed to be narrated by a older entity sibling, or someone who along with the Nolan family experienced harsher realities of the same life in the neighborhood of Williamsburg Brooklyn, but whose purity was miraculously also kept intact.
Although I was obviously not of that generation, there were certainly many aspects of Francie's childhood I was able to relate to. The humility and modesty in which Betty Smith tells this story is it's greatest charm.
I cried when I read the Christmas tree scene. First picturing little skinny boys taking a crack at Christmas trees way too big for them to carry home. Then Francie and Neeley, humbly also coming up together as two tiny siblings to take a crack at it too made my heart melt.  I also enjoyed when Francie received roses on her graduation day from her deceased father.
I didn't want the book to end. I hoped to follow Francie through all the stages of her adult life as well. Through her own hardships and triumphs.
Felt like I was right there, in Williamsburg, in the halls, on a stoop, listening and watching as the Nolan's daily life unfolded. The story gave you that enclosed feeling, like you were in it, part of it.
Reading this book for the first time was such a gift. I realize I can pick up the book anytime I want and re-read it again, but it's the first time you read something so wonderful that it's really a gift. The most perfect book to serendipitously end the year of 2009 with.

I would have given it 5 stars and almost did, to me it's really a 4 1/2, but to be honest, I thought the part of Mr Mcshane coming to rescue Katie (an uneducated poor woman with 3 kids) when he's an up and coming successful future politician was a bit far fetched and convenient. It was still a great book. Not amazing as a 5-star rating describes, but pretty close. This will be one of my top favorite.

I give Betty Smith's writing 5 stars.

ps. I loved that this book mentioned East NY (where I was born) and the El station off of crescent, the same train I use to catch to school. Also the Jamaica line, that I use to catch for work.


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