Revisit a Classic


"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith is a classic worth exploring or re-exploring if it's been a while. I picked up the spoken version read by Kate Burton.

If you are not familiar with this book, I suggest that you skip the introduction written and read by Jacquelyn Mitchard. There's nothing wrong with the intro, it just ruins the dramatic impact of the book's greatest line. You're not going to miss much if you skip the intro, but if you insist, save it for last.

The story is about American poverty. It takes place in the early 20th century, but there are a lot of afflictions that we can relate to such as hunger, alcoholism, prejudice and sexual abuse. Francie Nolan, a very bright young girl, is the main character. We watch her grow up the crowded slums of Brooklyn. Her imagination blooms at an early age, and as soon as she learns to read, Francie's inner life compensates for the privations of her surroundings. Her parents have the right idea about how to break the cycle of poverty, but knowing what to do and doing it require different strengths.

A colorful cast of characters flows through the pages and one gets a sense of the immigrant experience way back when. Kate Burton's reading style is mostly good, but not without limitations. Even so, this is a "quick listen" that revives one's admiration for Betty Smith.

--Julie C., Headquarters

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