There is something about reading your parent’s favorite books. I have read my father’s favorite books often. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were part of my childhood and adulthood. Dune wasn’t something I could wrap my head around until I was in my 20s. My father’s love of Napoleonic era Navy books are books I read more as part of the Book Lust challenge than my interest in them. I can claim with certainty that they are not my favorites. I prefer the activity back at home in the UK and France.
It’s my mother’s favorite book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that I have never read before. Why? I am not entirely sure. It seems like something I should have read as a child. My mother certainly gave me plenty of other books to read from this time period. I read almost all of the All-of-a-Kind Family series. I think the period wasn’t as scintillating as I wanted. As soon as I started reading en mass, I quickly moved into books with more action.
I decided it was time to find out what it was about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that my mother loved. I am not going to review the book. It is a classic for a reason. What struck me, as I read, was I was easily able to identify what I loved about the book. I was struck at how very little has changed about people even though the world has changed so much. Francie’s understanding of how none of the poor kids could acknowledge that they were poor because of the mix of shame, but also because their firm belief that they weren’t as poor as someone else, is something I expect continues for people. Katie’s fear about raising 2 children to have a better life than she does and her mother’s advice was very important. It was Francie’s love of the library and reading that hit home for me.
The dynamic between children and parents is a huge part of the book. The dynamic between Katie and Francie, Johnny and Francie, and Katie and Neeley is critical to the way things happen. The need for both parents to work is something we forget. A single income has always been a luxury of wealth. That Katie admits her preference for Neeley, if only to herself and Francie’s unconscious understanding of it difficult, especially when Francie is often left to be the responsible child.
I read and put it in context of what I know about my own mother’s childhood in the 50s and 60s. I don’t imagine that I can understand what it is that my mother loves about this book, but it does make sense based on what I do know. Yes, I read the book through my filter of the world. My filter was shaped in part by my mother. Do I now have a perfect understanding of my mother from reading this book? No, I never will and I am OK with that. I am just glad I was able to enjoy something my mother loves.
Side note, I couldn’t help but compare this to Go Set A Watchman since they are dealing with a few common topics related to the dynamics between parents and children and children coming of age. Are Francie and Scout the same? Certainly not in any way beyond being incredibly smart, independent, and precocious. Their lives have little in common beyond that. While Scout never seems to see her father beyond her worship of him, Francie is only too aware of her parent’s flaws. I am now pretty sure I never liked Scout and this may be why I don’t adore Go Kill a Mockingbird.
Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? What do you think about it?