A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 7/10

I rate the novel 7/10, as it is slow moving at some points in the novel. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, is an extremely moving novel about a girl growing up at the turn of the twentieth century in Brooklyn. Her father suffers from alcoholism, which makes him unable to hold a job for an extended period of time, leaving her mother to care for the family and work for a living. The book also chronicles the lives of other characters in the book, such as the main character’s aunt, and her struggle to have children. Along the way, the main character and her family struggle with money, illness, childbirth and lack of education.

An interesting attribute about this novel is the way it handles controversial topics. One of the most prominent figures in the main characters life, her aunt, is rumored to be promiscuous, and constantly flirts with other men even though she is married. Also, at the time, divorce was a topic that was not dwelled upon in many families, yet one of the characters has divorced numerous times because she could not have children with any of her husbands. However, all of these topics were only subtly hinted in the novel, as the main character was extremely young at the time, and was quite naïve to everything that was going on around her. Also, the way the author depicted Jews was a little offensive, as she constantly called them fat, and dove into the stereotypes constantly.

The authors style was also interesting, as many of the aspects of the novel were not outright, they were hinted within the context of the novel. As the author had written about the father in the story, she hinted that he was constantly depressed, as said when she wrote, “‘That’s right.’ Johnny went back to thinking aloud. ‘”Married seven years and we’ve had three homes. This will be my last home.” (Smith 122). Here, the author was hinting about his depression, and how he did not believe he deserved to live. The whole book is also riddled with foreshadowing and irony, which is interesting as it is not always completely obvious. The novel was an interesting outlook on life one hundred years ago, and I would recommend the novel to anyone who enjoys reading about history and the origins of others before them.

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