Monday, November 9, 2009

ON BOOKS ~ A Tree Grows In Brooklyn...

"Wonderful story.
Clearly paints a picture in your mind of the crueltys, hardships, and joys of early 1900's lifestyle in the city of Brooklyn, New York.
Truley a classic novel.
If there all girls were like Francie, the world would be a better place to live."

-Molly C. (long before she was Molly G.)

Forget for a moment the spelling errors in that quote. Or the fact that Brooklyn was no longer its own city in the early 1900's but rather a borough of NYC. I was just a kid when I wrote my review on the inside of the cover of a paperback copy of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Best I can figure, I read it the summer before I turned 14. I had just moved to CT and was preparing to start my freshman year of high school as the new kid without any friends other than the characters I met in my books. So it is no wonder I identified with Francie Nolan.

If you have never read this classic novel, it tells the tale of the Nolan family, primarily through young Francie's eyes, living in poverty in Brooklyn in the early 1900's. The Nolans have a way of sucking it up and getting things done. They don't complain but always strive for better things in life for the future. They believe strongly in family and education and those ideals give Francie and her brother a reliable base from which to build. Francie is a loner who is often on the outside looking in, so she loses herself in books, her imagination and writing. She gets dealt an overdose of life lessons as the story follows her from ages 11 to 17. And your heart goes out to this determined young girl as you root for her to get lucky in life.

Well let me tell you, it must have felt comforting to have Francie in my corner while I was adjusting to a new place, all alone except for my family. She loved to read and write stories. So did I. She got picked on in school. So had I. She had a little brother who generally meant well but had his own friends and things to do. She had a determined mother from a line of strong minded women. She was her daddy's little girl. Bingo - just like my family. I must have wanted to make Francie my best - and only - friend in my new town. No wonder I thought the world would be a better place if everyone was like her. That would mean they were kind and smart and sensitive - especially to girls like me.

Thankfully I found some real life girls who took me under their wing the first few weeks of high school and they remain my dear friends to this very day. They made my new town feel like a place I could think of as home. And I didn't need to drown myself in books and writing - I could actually join the world of the living. But Francie got me through that rough patch. She was just what I needed.

When I found the musty old paperback on the bookshelves at my parents' on a recent visit back to CT I borrowed it since I didn't remember much other than a strong sense of sentimentality and fondness. Imagine my surprise when, months later, I opened it up and found my teenage review. I was even more intrigued to re-discover this story. I would have to say that my original review was spot on. The world needs more Francies in it. But if you don't have one handy, you can always go right to the source and bond with the girl in the book.

Do you have a favorite book that helped you through your childhood journey?

I have 2 related posts on the topic of childhood literature that you might also enjoy visiting:
  • A tour of the home of Little Women
  • Tips to inspire children to read

  • Stop by and leave your thoughts there if you have the time or desire.

    17 comments:

    Kathleen said...

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all time favorites. I know the Nolans were poor but something about their lives was appealing to me in a weird sort of way. I think I wanted to be stronger like Francie was. You just knew she was going to make it and be okay. I suggested this for my book club a few years ago and most everyone hated it...I think I knew then that I was in the wrong book club!

    Susan said...

    Molly, I also read this as a teenager and I found a nice trade paperback at Goodwill a few weeks ago and I'm reading it right now! It's bringing back such wonderful memories of how much I loved Francie. And it's nice to be reading it with adult eyes.

    The copy I just bought has a forward by Anna Quindlen which is really nice. You should see if your library has a copy with it. It gives a good perspective.

    Sandy Nawrot said...

    I'm embarrassed to say that I don't remember if I read this book or not. If I did, it didn't make much of an impact on me. But my life couldn't have been further from Francie's. I was obsessing over boys, bras and periods, hence my semi-destroyed childhood copy of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. I find it simply precious that books played such a big part in our lives, and helped us through the tough times. I am so glad you met friends that year you moved. It would break my heart to think of you alone and picked on!

    Susan said...

    Obviously I meant foreword...it was early. ;)

    stacybuckeye said...

    I just recently added this to my reading list. Not sure how I missed it when I was younger. Sounds like like it was the perfect book at the perfect time. I went to the same small school from 1st-12th grade and I always befriended the new kids (well, okay, unless they were just too weird!).
    I'll have to read this one soon since it was recommended by a 14 year old Molly.

    Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

    I also read this book during my teen years after having been forced to move to a new state. It was a great comfort to me as well. That has been a few decades ago and I'm going to find a copy of this. It's time for a re-read. Thanks for the reminder.

    kaye said...

    What a nice treat for you. I never thought of writing a review in the cover of a much loved book. That would help you recall your feelings. I read this book many years ago, but I can't recall any of the details. I might have to read it again. I'm thinking that Jane Eyre was a book that affected me quite a bit. I'm a bit of a romantic and I have loved this book since I first read it as a teenager. I have enjoyed your posts on attractions to Walden's Pond and the home where Little Women was written. If I ever get back there this is on my must visit list. Thans for the virtual tour.

    Sun Singer said...

    Nice to see a review of a book I first read a long time ago. It still reads well today, though I see it all with adult eyes.

    --Malcolm

    Lorin said...

    I remember well reading this book as a kid - it really moved me.

    Thanks for visiting my blog today!

    Kim said...

    Ahhh...yes. One of my favorite classics! Written is such a way you almost forget how poor they are. Loved it!

    Sadako said...

    I loved this book, and felt the same way, Kathleen. Despite knowing they were poor, I loved entering into their lives and getting to know them a little bit.

    How can any book club hate Tree Grows in Brooklyn?!?!

    Wanda said...

    I don't know that I had a specific book that helped me through my childhood journey. I do remember being particularly fond of S.E. Hinton as a young teenager, especially Rumble Fish.

    I loved reading both reviews of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn! :)

    Rose City Reader said...

    Thank you for visiting Rose City Reader because your comment brought me to your blog, which I have been enjoying. Keep up the good work!

    For me, it was Trixie Belden -- the series, not a particular book. Not as touching as ATGIB, but I sooooooooooooo wanted to be Trixie and solve mysteries. Or at least be the author and write mysteries.

    Julie said...

    I'll definitely have to add A Tree Grows In Brooklyn on my "classics to read" list. Can you believe that I've never read it?

    Amy said...

    This is such a great book! It's been years since I read it and I think it may be time to read it again. You wrote a wonderful review of it!

    Beth F said...

    I didn't change schools when I was growing up, but I did love this book. It's been years and years since I read it. Thanks for this post; I think I need to revisit Francie.

    Penny said...

    So wonderful you found Francie when you needed her most :)