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  • Heather 4:46 am on July 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

    I hope you have enjoyed reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with us.  I feel like I dropped the ball a bit, but I still had a ton of fun. Now on to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, who scares the pants off me.  Should be interesting!  I can’t wait to read along with Trish.

    • Jen - Devourer of Books 7:46 am on July 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      You were awesome, lady! And don’t be scared of “The Handmaid’s Tale”! It is fabulous.

    • Ronnica 8:26 am on July 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I know I haven’t been stopping by as much as I’d like, but I look forward to discussing The Handmaid’s Tale…very discussable!

  • Heather 6:47 am on June 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book Discussion 2 

    How can modern readers reconcile the frequent anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments that characters espouse throughout the novel?

  • Heather 3:34 am on June 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book Discussion 1 

    I have a few random questions about the book as a whole to ask, as we wrap this up.

    Although it is written in the third person, there can be little argument that the narrative is largely from Francie’s point of view. How would the book differ if it was told from Neeley’s perspective?

    • Jen - Devourer of Books 8:43 am on June 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Ooh, that’s an interesting question. Neely didn’t seem very introspective, so I think it would have been a much more surface-level book, with fewer meanings assigned to what happened. As he got older, though, it would have been interesting to see their life from his perspective, and hear more about why he so did not want to return to school.

  • Heather 12:00 am on June 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 4 Discussion 2 

    In the last chapter, we come full circle.  Francie’s family is moving out of their apartment, so she goes around to all her old haunts to “say goodbye.”  How is the Francie of now, different from the Francie of six years ago?  What about Neeley?  How is he different?  How is is like Johnny?  Do you think he will come to a bad end like his father? 


  • Heather 6:00 am on June 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 4 Discussion 1 

    Book Four starts with lots of changes for Francie.  And Katie.  College, marriage, jobs….  How is Francie like Katie?  And how is she not?

    • Jen - Devourer of Books 10:35 am on June 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Francie does what she has to do, just like Katie does. With Johnny gone and a new baby in the house, Francie has to leave school, not something she ever wanted to do. However, she is committed to educating herself and doesn’t let a little thing like having to work get her down. She’s always striving to improve in her work and in her education, where Katie tended to be more concerned with just getting by.

      • Heather 4:56 pm on June 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I feel like Francie is the best of Katie and Johnny. She’s determined but still optimistic. It seems like she has more faith in herself, she believes she’s going to get out. I love that about her!

  • Heather 12:00 am on May 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 3 Discussion 5 

    Immigration and ethnic identity are important themes among the people of Williamsburg. How does ethnic and religious identity play itself out in the community?

    How do the groups live side-by-side, and how does their background shape their values?

  • Heather 5:30 am on May 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 3 Discussion 4 

    Some critics suggest that the book’s characters are caricatures—types of people rather than real people. However, Chapter 36 shows Katie less as a character type, and more as a real person. She responds initially to the death the way the reader would expect, telling her children not to cry. She does not cry at the funeral. Then, all of a sudden she breaks down at the kitchen table, in front of her sisters and her children. This emotional catharsis is unlike Katie, but shows that her behavior sometimes strays from the hard / detached type. (from Sparks Notes)

    What do you think of the way Katie handled Johnny’s death?  Of the way she helped the kids through his death?  Do you think she does the right thing by Johnny and by the kids?

    • Jen - Devourer of Books 9:15 am on May 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think she reacted exactly the way I would have expected her to. She was a no-nonsense type of gal, so the admonishing her children not to cry and getting the cause of death listed as pneumonia only was exactly in character. However, she also loved Johnny greatly, as much as he had annoyed her in years past. Between her strong love for him and the fact that she was going to have to take care of her two children and the new baby by herself was momentarily overwhelming.

      • Heather 5:11 pm on May 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        I like Katie for her no-nonsense ways. It seems so…necessary…for her life. And I totally agree with everything you said.

  • Heather 4:43 pm on May 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 3 Discussion 3 

    Bet you think I’d forgotten. Nope, life has just been crazy busy. Here’s the next discussion question, for those who have stuck with me. :/

    What might Francie’s obsession with order – from systematically reading the books in the library from A through Z, to trying every flavor ice cream soda – in turn say about her circumstances and her dreams?

    • Elizabeth Bastos 5:22 am on May 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think Francie’s made up her mind to be so ordered because life around her is so disordered, also, maybe she learned precision from her mother. Katie does everything with purpose. On a side note, I think all this order and perception is a flaw in the otherwise spot-on “young girl” voice — Francie’s a little too knowing to be altogether real as a character.

    • jendevourerofbooks 7:58 am on May 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think order might be part of it, but that it is more a means to an end. She has a very real sense that there’s a wider world out there than her corner of Brooklyn and she wants to be exposed to it. Going through books and ice cream methodically is a way to make sure she is exposed to everything and doesn’t accidentally miss anything.

    • Marie 6:27 pm on May 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with jendevourerofbooks. And it’s actually one of the things that I really really like about her! I love that she is aware that there is MORE out there. It seems like not very many people in Brooklyn had that point of view. I love love love this about her!

  • Heather 12:00 am on May 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 3 Discussion 2 

    What connection could be made between Francie’s early writing—including the stories that her teacher rejects— and Smith’s…..In a particularly revealing chapter of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie’s teacher dismisses her essays about everyday life among the poor as “sordid,” and, indeed, many of the novel’s characters seem to harbor a sense of shame about their poverty. But they also display a remarkable self-reliance (Katie, for example, says she would kill herself and her children before accepting charity). How and why have our society’s perceptions of poverty changed – for better or worse – during the last one hundred years?

    • Jen - Devourer of Books 11:18 am on May 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      The complete rejection of anything like charity (like the episode with the doll) is so interesting, and is something I’ve witnessed in other older books as well. These days people still may not want to broadcast the fact that they’re receiving charity, but it doesn’t seem that the same desperate rejection exists, or at least not to the same extent. Perhaps it has to do with moving away from Puritan, Calvinist roots that suggest that God’s favored ones will have what they need and those without are without because of sin or unworthiness. Of course, we’re going right back in that direction with the Prosperity Gospel movement.

    • Marie 4:56 pm on May 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think it’s harder to notice those who are poverty stricken. And I’m not sure if the feelings surrounding this issue have changed that much. I’m not rich, far from, but when I visit those who have less and whose houses are maybe not as clean I feel uneasy around it. I think the same uncomfortable feeling exists between the extremes of socioeconomic classes. We don’t understand why they don’t just go to work, and some still feel ashamed of what they don’t have. I think that’s the other problem. I’m not sure if this feeling of entitlement existed 100 years ago. At least in this book it doesn’t seem to. People wanted to work hard for what they got and now it seems like everyone (rich and poor) want to get as much as they can for the littlest amount of energy. And everyone wants what their neighbors have or what they see on tv. We just had a book club discussion about this book and this question ended up being one great discussion. It’s definitely interesting to think about.

  • Heather 3:22 am on May 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Book 3 Discussion 1 

    He had sung many a song about ships and going down to the sea in them with a heave ho and a heave to. He wondered why it hadn’t turned out the way it said in the songs. The children should have returned exhilarated and with a deep and abiding love for the sea and he should have returned with a fine mess of fish. Why, oh why didn’t it turn out the way it did in the song?

    The Nolan’s have a great love of songs and music.  What role does song and singing play in the novel?

    • Jen - Devourer of Books 10:11 am on May 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Music seems to function for the entire Nolan family in the same way that books do for Francie, as a way to either escape from or work through emotions. The Nolans have a very difficult life, and it seems to be very helpful for them to be able to brighten their day with song, or use it to mourn their losses.

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