Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This book was selected for our September book group gathering. I have heard of this book. I even thought my mother had read it and loved it. It turns out my memory was wrong and she has never read it (although, she did respond favorably, expressing a desire to read it).

Alas, it won't be on my list of favorite reads for 2011. I begin to wonder if I have merely become too interested in modern fiction to arouse interest in older fiction (even the ones considered classics).

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn begins with an explanation of the title. In the tenement housing where the main character, Frankie, lives, there is a small tree stubbornly growing out of a concrete jungle. Frankie, like the tree, is poor but determined and grows into something wonderful to behold.

Some of my difficulties with the book stem from the preachy tone. Much is made about character and what a person should and shouldn't do. Religion and education are touted as saviors. Even Frankie's father's dissipative lifestyle is acceptable because he is a wonderful father and loves them deeply.

Still, I did find a few comments that resonated with me and made me laugh:

In speaking of the her desperate neighbor who threw herself at men, to no avail, and of her aunt, Sissy, who naturally attracted men's interest, Frankie observes, "the difference was that Flossie Gaddis was starved about men and Sissy was healthily hungry about them. And what a difference that made."

I thought this comment about what makes for a good husband was both comical and true:
"Jim ... was a good man. He was considered educated .... He made good money and wasn't home much. He was an ideal husband."

And finally, a quote about the dilemma the people pleasers face: "Yes, she listened to everybody's troubles but no one listened to hers. But that was right because Sissy was a giver and never a taker."

Although it was a pleasant enough story (of a girl rising out of poverty), it just wasn't deep enough or interesting enough to fully hold my attention. I think I merely finished it because it was up for book group discussion. Hopefully, our next choice will hold better promise.

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