Thursday, May 2, 2013

How much time does a tree need to grow?

Turns out quite some.
The beloved American classic about a girl's growing up is a long tale, filled with tiny bits of detail. Francie is the firstborn of Katie and Johnny Nolan and a sister to Neeley (Cornelius). A family living in Brooklyn, trying to make ends meet, facing the war and poverty and finding little joys in life to be monumental on the way.
The book is divided in to five "books", each covering a different part of the characters' lives. As it so happens, you will learn not only about Francie and her beloved little brother but also about her parents and her aunts and her grandparents. Despite being a firstborn, Francie is always second-loved by her mother who prefers Neeley. And even though she does her best to cover that up, Francie is a very insightful young girl who loves books and will not be uneducated. Her father and mother have decided so for her and despite themselves not having a good education, they still insist that she gets one.
The match of Francie's parents is a strange one but very fitting for that time. The big eyes with which she follows her father's every step and adores him almost overlook his mistakes or shortcomings. Given that the story is written from Francie's perspective (for most of the book), Johnny seems like the perfect father at the beginning of that century. The hard work with which Katie almos ruins herself is not emphasized with such empathy as is his loss of work as a singer.

“Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.
Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...
have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be
sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable
and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep,
let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” 

But Francie tries to find the beauty in everything, in ugly and shiny, believes in the good of people and is often taken advantage of. To say that she's naĆ­ve would be an understatement.
It also turns out a tree grows with detail, not only slowly. And during the story you wonder what's with the tree. Hold on, you'll get there. This is one of those books that are beautiful for what they are. Don't expect some big twist or huge surprises along the way. Don't even expect to love all the characters. Not by far. And there is really no shocking killer in the end. This is one of those coming-of-age stories that enchant if you only give them enough time to suck you into their story. It takes a while but once you're in... you're in.

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