A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

By Betty Smith

I finished this last night and I’m amazed. My first degree is in English Lit and yet I somehow managed to miss this gem.

The writing is straightforward, the characters are so real that I felt like I knew them after a few pages. I was so much like Francie growing up, always reading, always learning. And there the resemblance ended. My life was not one of poverty. However, there were always books.

I fell in love with these people. Although little happens that’s very dramatic, it’s all real life. It’s a real story, with real people, and it resonated. I will definitely put this on the “keep this book” shelf and may at some point, when the TBR pile is manageable, read it again.

A Wrinkle in TIme

Barnes and Noble Edition – picture found on internet and I don’t know anything else about it

I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve read this book. It’s the story of a young girl, Meg Murray, who is a gawky, unattractive, pretty friendless kid, who has twin brothers who are very popular, and a baby brother who is a “sport,” incredibly intelligent and wise beyond his years. Their father has been missing for a few years and it becomes the mission of Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their new found friend Calvin, to find and ultimately rescue him. Along the way, Meg learns a lot about herself and saves not only her dad but her baby brother, who has been sucked into the evil grasp of IT.

What has always resonated with me is the idea that loves win in the end. Nothing is stronger than love.
IT is a giant brain who controls all the people on the planet Camazotz. IT ensures that everyone does exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, any abberations are sent for “reprocessing.”

The thought of living like that has always appalled me – reading this book again in today’s climate, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to our current “you must be vaccinated or you’re a horrible person!” attitudes.

I loved this book as a kid, I still love it, the writing is great, the story is great, it’s a timeless classic and if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?

Hamnet

Hamnet is the story of Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes, and his three children. Shakespeare is never mentioned by name in the book, only referred to as “the husband,” “the son,” or “the father.” I’m not sure why this is, perhaps because the main focus of the book is his wife, Agnes. The main plot is the death of their son, Hamnet, from the plague, and how this death changed the entire family.

Well, that’s supposed to be the plot, I think. The characters are shallow – more time is spent on describing the scenery and while the descriptions are lovely, the story doesn’t really move along.

I wanted to love this book. It was highly recommended in our book group, people were “shattered” when they finished it, it won at least one award. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never read anything by this author, I do know a bit about Shakespeare (English major here) but knew nothing about his family. I’m not sure if it’s factual or not, I did read that no one actually knows what killed the boy.

The description of Agnes’ grief was vivid, but somehow felt shallow – it seemed more guilt than grief, and more guilt because she hadn’t paid attention to his illness because her focus was on his twin. He was never fully realized, nor were the other two children. I felt there was much more to them, but we never got to hear about it. There was much more about “the husband” as well, but we never got to read that either. We were told about Agnes being angry with him, but she forgave him for his sins in days, only to turn around and be angry again. (For the sins she describes, it would take more than good sex and a few days for me to forgive my husband for them)

Again, I wanted to love it. I ended up just wanting to finish it, and not particularly liking it. Two stars, at most, and I wouldn’t really recommend.

Midnight At the Blackbird Cafe

I loved this book. It’s the story of a young girl who goes to a home she never knew, to claim an inheritance from her grandmother, the owner of The Blackbird Cafe. Blackbirds and other animals play a part in this story of finding roots, finding family, finding forgiveness and love.

I listened to the audio version from Chirp.com. The narrators did a great job, doing accents and voices that made the characters come to life.

It’s a mystery, a romance novel, a bit of the supernatural, and a sweet tale that drew me in. I will miss Anna Kate and Ollie, and Natalie and all the rest. I want to hope for a sequel, but I also want to imagine them living their lives happily ever after.