This classic novel follows the life of the impoverished Nolan family, living in Brooklyn during the early 1900’s. Johnny is the musical, fun-loving father, Katie the mother who is the main financial provider for the family, Francie the 11-year-old daughter, and Neeley the 10-year-old son. The reader is given an intimate look at what it was like to grow up in an overcrowded neighborhood with barely enough money to survive. The current welfare system had not been created yet, so poor families had to use all their wits to stay afloat.
The best thing about “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” is the depth of the characters in the story, especially Francie and her mother Katie. You are allowed to see what they see, feel what they feel as they tackle life. There are moments of despair, but also times of elation as they overcome difficulties.
My favorite part of the book was when the family was trying to help Francie with a horrible school situation. I loved what her father did for her, and how her Aunt Sissy stepped in to help as well. That was one spunky family!
The tree referred to in the book title is the “Tree Of Heaven”, which is basically a weed type of tree that can grow anywhere. It grows where nothing should grow – even out of cracks in the sidewalk. It represents people like the Nolans, where all the cards are stacked against them. No one expects them to succeed or better themselves. But against all odds, Francie – like the scrawny tree – struggles and grows and overcomes the circumstances that try to hold her down. If Francie could succeed, so can each one of us.