Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Memory Book

This post is part of YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday. Today's question is What book brings back memories? Check out the website for more RTW destinations!

I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for my seventh grade summer reading. It was a huge book compared to most of what I'd read as a twelve-year-old, and I decided to put it off until the end of the summer. At some point, my great-aunt picked up the book.

"Oh," she said, "I remember this one!"

And that surprised me. I was used to reading books most adults had never heard of (My Teacher Flunked the Planet, the Dear America series...), and I didn't know what to make of a book that was first published when my grandparents were young.

I can absolutely remember reading the first page of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, sitting in the car, in the driveway. By the end of the chapter, I was hooked, completely sucked into Francie's world.

In all of literature, she's the character I most identify with, as far as personality. I can't imagine a more fully-formed character, one who lives and breathes on the page. Francie looked for beauty in every moment of life, in the scales of a tea shop, in a brown bowl at the library, in the faces of the people of her neighborhood. She was brave and courageous in the face of cruelty. She made mistakes but instead of being burdened by guilt, she let her shame and pain shape her into a better person.

What had Granma Mary Rommely said? 'To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.'

Excuse me while I go weep over the truth and beauty of those words.

I can remember exactly how thrilling this book was to read for the first time. How I cried when Francie's father died, how my heart ached when she was taken advantage of by a young sailor, how exciting it was to see Francie grown, confident, proud of her life and who she was. And every time I pick up this book, I discover something new to love.

Everyone has a book that sits inside of them, shapes who they are are and how they think, grows and changes with them. And ever since I first picked it up as a twelve-year-old getting my summer reading done, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has been that book for me.


  1. I have heard of this book, but never gave it a second thought until now. I'm adding it to my TBR list. :)

    1. Great! Although I must say, so much of why I love this book is because I began reading it when I was the same age Francie was at the start of the story, and when I grew older, I was able to relate to so many experiences that Francie also had later in the book. I've often wondered if the book would have had as strong an effect on me had I picked it up as an adult.

      That said, it's a beautifully-structured, funny, smart, heart-breaking book, and I think anyone can find something to relate to in the story.

      I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Oh, a two-for-one! Not only TREE GROWS but MY TEACHER FLUNKED THE PLANET! I think about that book all the time (the scene where they go flying around looking at all the stores of food). Yet, if you asked me the title, I might not have thought of it.

    So thank you! A great trip down memory lane. I think I will have to find them both and re-read them.

    1. You're very welcome! I loved that whole series--I think the first one I read was MY TEACHER FRIED MY BRAIN, and only because of the wacky cover. Happy reading!