Quotable Friday: from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“Mama and Papa sat in the kitchen. They would sit there and talk until daybreak. Papa was telling about the night’s work; the people he had seen, what they had looked like and how they spoke. The Nolans just couldn’t get enough of life. They lived their own lives up to the hilt but that wasn’t enough. They had to fill in on the lives of all the people they made contact with.”

— A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithA TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN
by Betty Smith

Fiction
Harper Perennial, 2005
(first published 1943)
Paperback, 493 pages

In Brooklyn grows a singular type of tree that is able to flourish in the poorest of conditions, “the only tree that grew out of cement.” Under such a tree, at the turn of the century, grows a young girl named Francie. With an alcoholic, singing waiter father, a hardened but deeply caring mother, and a charming younger brother, Francie faces all the joys and hardships of growing up in the tenements of Brooklyn — from following musical performers through the streets to selling junk for penny candy, being picked on in school to reading in perfect solitude on a leafy fire escape, and the devastating loss of a loved one to the naive pangs of first love. Continue reading

Happiness Lies in the Little Things

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains — a cup of hot strong coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone — just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”

I finished reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith the other day, and I fell in love with this quote. Francie blew me away with her youthful wisdom throughout the book, and this passage was one of my favorites. I love the examples she uses — how perfect are they?! — and she made me stop to think about the little things that make up happiness for me: waking up to sunlight streaming through my window on a Saturday morning, a kiss on the forehead, walking barefoot on soft grass, the perfect song coming on the radio, dancing, a steaming cup of jasmine tea from my favorite mug…

What little things make up your happiness?