“Joy in the Morning” by Betty Smith

8.5 out of 10 stars

A rich, fulfilling follow-up to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Recommended audience: 14 and older, leans towards chick-lit but is a universal classic

Optimistic yet saddening, sentimental yet dire, this novel follows A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’s heroine Francie Nolan to Ann Arbor.  Though this character’s name is Annie, and minor details are awry, anyone who’s read Smith’s first novel will recognize Francie.  The book opens up with Annie McGairy’s city hall marriage to Carl Brown, her sweetheart in his second year of law school, while she is fresh off the train from Brooklyn.  As Carl and Annie’s first year of marriage endures love, hardship, and some of life’s most crushing contingencies, the university town is buzzing with excitement and hope.  Annie’s friendliness and naïveté are juxtaposed with the hardness of her character due to growing up in poverty and going to work at the age of 14, both of which shape her sentimental yet realistic outlook on life.  She enjoys literature, and is able to audit a writing class at the university by her own curiosity.  Carl and Annie’s lives contain hardship, but also deep love for each other.

Smith utilizes sensory details and imagery artfully in such a way that readers live through Annie and can visualize the setting.  Meticulous details and beautiful descriptions make this book amazing.  If you’ve read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you will appreciate the fact that Smith quotes a phrase from the opening of the novel in Joy in the Morning, but even if you haven’t, both should be on your reading list.  Though not as phenomenal as A Tree Grows in BrooklynJoy in the Morning is a beautiful tale and timeless classic.

—Casey Lum


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