A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a well-known Top 150 20th Century novel which is semi-autobiographical. Over the course of the early 1900’s, the main character Francie and her family reside in several tenements in Brooklyn. Her father is a singing waiter who works erratically and drinks regularly. Her mother helps support the family by doing janitorial work. Francie and her younger brother do their bit to earn money as well.
This story is sad, but accurately portrays the plight of the poor. Francie is motivated to study as a way of bettering her life, but is forced to leave school after completing grammar school. Lying about her age, she obtains factory work and on paydays, turns her check over to her mother. Her brother does the same, but when Fall rolls around, he begins high school and Francie continues to work because the family hasn’t enough income for both children to continue their education. Francie accepts her plight, but finds ways to climb the steep ladder ahead. She’s a fighter with a good heart.
Overall this is a bleak tale; these are children who are forced to support their poorly educated parents. Unfortunately, this was a common occurrence during that era. The writing and character depictions are excellent. I was moved by it and recommend it wholeheartedly.