A Tree Grew in a Glass Castle
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Glass Castle are stories of girls growing up in poverty which have been embraced by many- yet the stories told are sixty years apart. Betty Smith’s book is fiction loosely based on her childhood. Maybe more than loosely based because as you read about her life there are many parallels. Jeanette Wells’ is an autobiography of her life. Both share similar themes and in the end create two women of determination, drive and deliberativeness from the circumstance each walked through.
…in the way I have found tried and true to finding a good read- I asked others what they are reading. In asking my co-workers what they read over the summer one answered that she reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn while another quickly chimed in with how much she had enjoyed the book. This instantly put this book on my “To Read” list. As the school year progressed, the co-worker who had reread the book made a reference to the book in passing conversation. This led me to get my hands on the book ASAP.
Oh, how quickly Francie found a place in my heart. She is a young girl living in 1912 Brooklyn who loves reading and her family. Her family survives on hard work, resourceful economizing, a belief in the American way and a fierce love of each other. The book covers her life to young adulthood; in between the reader walks with Francie through pursuit of education, family tragedies, and several humorous moments as she comes to terms with the world around her.
Jeanette’s story is compelling. It keeps you engaged in her presentation of the stark reality of her life. She is a contemporary of mine- meaning she is only a few years older than me. I just didn’t realize that her life could happen to people who are not living in the depression. Her writing is outstanding. Told through her eyes, thoughts and understandings consistent her age at the time of the event. Through her eyes you see her awareness grow. She has to let go of the fairytales and face the fact that she is being raised by people who are caught up in their own reality and incapable of providing to the basic needs of a family on any level- security, food or shelter. I hesitate on the love, because I do believe the parents loved the children to the degree they were able to. She comes to realize the only way to survive is to no longer live in it. Her departure is done with grace and a continued deep love for her parents.
How this book came to my radar was two fold. I regularly read the books recommended page featured in most magazines and the book came up in several publications, often in reference to her prequel Half Broke Horses the story of her grandmother’s life. But as I would tell people that I had just read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a common response was to encourage me to read Glass Castle. I did and in turn I highly recommend both books, I would even add Half Broke Horses. I feel that they can be read in any order.
Speaking of magazines…I would like to put a plug in for life:beautiful. It is an “inspirational” magazine done with the caliber one would find in Martha Stewart Living: photography to layout. It has standing contributors in Gary Smalley and Joyce Meyers while the articles cover a range of interests: crafts to home décor to recipes, to personal stories that are substantive and inspiring. It is published quarterly and it is a pricier subscription than most, but to me it is worth supporting them. It can be found at many Barnes & Nobles and Wal-Mart.