A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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This book captured me. The rich prose and good ol’ fashioned storytelling are all evidence as to why this novel is a classic. It reminded me (both thematically and stylistically) of another book that captivated my attention and which was, at least until I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, my favourite work of fiction – The Grapes of Wrath. While I am astounded it took me this long to stumble across this gem, I’m confident it will become a perennial favourite (I’m a staunch advocate of re-reading).

I have a little quirk (one of many, actually) – I cannot resist a good quote. I have a series of little notebooks where I record favourite lines – everything from Bible verses to classic literature to little diddy’s I come across in toddler reading material (lots of the latter lately). A Tree Grows in Brooklyn supplied overwhelming fodder for my quotes collection. The vivid description of characters and simplistic elegance of the narrative made every page “quote” worthy. Here are a few favourites, though, that I’ve isolated from the pages. Perhaps it will whet the appetite to go explore this classic…

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue…a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”

*****

“The last time of anything has the poignancy of death itself. This that I see now, she thought, to see no more this way. Oh, the last time how clearly you see everything; as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn’t held it tighter when you had it every day. What had Granma Mary Rommely said? ‘To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

*****

“In teaching your child, do not forget that suffering is good too. It makes a person rich in character.”

*****

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way,” said Katie.

Aw, somebody ought to cut that tree down, the homely thing,” said the midwife.

If there was only one tree like that in the whole world, you would think it was beautiful,” said Katie.

*****

“It’s come at last,” she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache. When there wasn’t enough food in the house you pretended that you weren’t hungry so they could have more. In the cold of a winter’s night you got up and put your blanket on their bed so they wouldn’t be cold. You’d kill anyone who tried to harm them…then one sunny day, they walk out in all innocence and they walk right into the grief that you’d give your life to spare them from.”

*****

“And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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