Francie knows there are other worlds besides the one she’s grown up in. Like the big city over the river, where children don’t have to scavenge the streets to find trash to sell to the local junkman, and people have enough to eat. But what would it even be like to live there? All she’s ever known is life on the streets, where her hardworking mother can barely make enough to support her family: Francie, her mother, her younger brother Neely, and their occasionally working father, widely acknowledged as an alcoholic. The world beyond the ragged streets of Brooklyn is unreachable to Francie and the others who live in New York’s slums.
Francie dreams of visiting the city, although she knows it is impossible. There is little hope of leaving Brooklyn, even as her family gathers pennies in a milk can, imagining gathering a whole fifty dollars to buy their own land. She has a hard life, but she accepts it. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of how she grows up, overcoming hardships, finding work, learning the ways of that world and the one outside Brooklyn, too.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a partially autobiographical account of the author’s life in Brooklyn, New York just after the turn of the twentieth century. It is an amazing, compelling, and beautiful story. I don’t often prefer historical fiction, but this book was unusual; instead of focusing on the times themselves, it highlighted what happened in them. Although outside events were mentioned, this is a personal story, one of the rare books which makes you feel like the character and live her world as she would have a hundred years ago. Francie is a strong and sympathetic protagonist. This book makes you not just love it, but feel it, too. It is one of those classics which has stood the test of time, remaining accessible and real to the modern reader. I would highly recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to readers ages eleven and up.