It may have kept me up until after my bedtime, but last night I finally finished re-reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. First off, I don't know if I've ever read a novel that was so devoted to capturing the finest, most intimate details of a time and a place. I was just on Lorimer Street last weekend, and reading about the tenements of 1900s Williamsburg was pure time-travel. I agreed with much of what Erica wrote, including the fact that this time around, the Nolans' poverty hit home in an entirely new way. In fact, I found the book to be far more upsetting than The Bell Jar (more on that book here).
When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as a pre-teen, I related heavily to Francie, especially her furious passion for writing. But as a 20something, I found myself looking up to her mother, Katie, and wondering how she managed to work so hard, love so well, and keep everything together in the face of abject hardship. Katie, who was also in her twenties, fought tooth and nail to give her children a better life, sacrificing the better part of her own happiness to do so. I was unequivocally humbled reading this book, and newly grateful for so many of the things we take for granted on a daily basis: a warm apartment, a stocked refrigerator, and most of all, an education. Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Would you re-read it? Leave a comment, or discuss it on Twitter (#english101). And for the full Modern Classics reading schedule, click here.