A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books—it's in that great old tradition of books about children that are written for adults, though I think many adults wrongly assume it is for children. I reread it every few years, and each time I read it I am newly surprised by how great it is, which is the best thing you can say about a book.
On The Rumpus today, Molly McArdle has a pretty lovely essay about her own affection for Betty Smith's classic:
Everything happens. People are born and die, people get married and others don’t, people have kids, people take kids, abortions are offered, periods arrive, school is taken up and put on hold, jobs are acquired and lost, money is painstakingly saved and spent. (Did I mention there’s a serial killer? There is also a serial killer.) Most of all, there is Francie herself, so often brave and stoic and unapologetically literary. How can you not love a girl who writes in her journal, “Am I curious about sex?” The narrator goes on, “She studied the last sentence. The line on the inner edge of her right eyebrow deepened. She crossed out the sentence and rewrote it to read: ‘I am curious about sex.’” This book is so intensely about being a woman, being poor, being alive, and I have not read another one with its breadth or accuracy..
Oof. So good.
Also, if you're a fan of Brooklyn and haven't read Dodie Smith's similar but lesser-known I Capture the Castle, do it. Now.
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