"Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer."
The first paragraph of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the perfect introduction to this classic coming-of-age story. Francine Nolan is 13, and growing up in poverty with her family. We read about her adolescent adventures as we get to know her parents and brother, relatives and neighbors in Brooklyn, New York. Francie is very reflective and has close bonds with her family. Her papa Johnny is a drinker and part time singing waiter. Mama Katie is a full time housekeeper who favors son Neeley, Francie’s younger brother. This story takes place over Francie’s teen years as she reads, observes, and tries to make the best of the challenges her family faces. This beautifully written novel by Betty Smith brings history to life, as we read about a family who makes ends meet over 100 years ago in Brooklyn. This novel is also available in audio, and the adapted critically acclaimed 1945 movie is at the library on DVD.