A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Book Summary, by Betty Smith

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1-Page Summary of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ is set in 1912, and tells the story of Francie Nolan. She lives with her family in a tenement house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The book opens on a Saturday afternoon when Francie goes to collect junk for pennies. Her neighborhood is filled with people who love each other and spend their time together happily. Although they live among poor families, the Nolans are happy because they are surrounded by love and warmth from friends and family members.

Johnny Nolan, a young Irish man, sings and works as a waiter for extra money. His girlfriend Katie works as a janitor in the building where they live to help pay rent.

The beginning of Book II flashes back to a summer in 1900 when Katie and Johnny first met. Katie worked at a factory, while her friend Hildy O’Dair dated a young boy named Johnny Nolan. When Katie danced with him for the first time, she made up her mind to endure any hardship if it meant she could be with him forever. They fell in love and got married within six months.

Johnny and Katie Nolan support themselves by working as janitors in a public school. However, their lives become more stressful when Katie becomes pregnant. A year after Francie is born, Katie gives birth to a boy, Neeley who will be her favorite child. The stress of living in poverty and having children causes Johnny to become weaker and undependable while Katie’s fighting instinct kicks in. Johnny’s drinking problem gets worse and the Nolans move after he makes some bad decisions on his twenty-first birthday that bring shame to their family. They love their new apartment on Lorimer Street but they have to leave because of some mistakes made by Sissy which brings shame upon them all again. Their third home is at Grand Street where they stay until another mistake comes about from one of Sissy’s friends that shames the whole family again, forcing them out yet again for good this time.

Neeley and Francie started school around the same time. Neeley was excited to start school, but Francie wasn’t looking forward to it at all because she thought her neighborhood school would be mean like the teachers and other kids. However, when she finally went to that school, she found out that it was a lot nicer than what she had expected. This made her love learning even more because of how nice everyone was compared to her old neighborhood school. One day while walking home from class with Johnny, they stumbled upon a beautiful new building where rich people lived and learned together without paying attention to whether or not someone is poor or rich like them. They figured out a way for Francie to transfer there so that they could both go there together instead of going their separate ways just yet in life since they were having such fun as friends already after only one year of knowing each other—even though no one else ever seemed interested in being friends with either of them before!

The book begins with Francie and Neeley enjoying the holidays. (This is a flashback.) The story then goes back to when they were younger, before Francie loses her innocence. One of these experiences is the tree-throwing ritual in which trees are thrown at them. Although she’s excited about getting a Christmas tree, Katie (Francie’s mother) worries that she doesn’t know how poor they really are because of this tradition.

In addition to the loss of innocence with Francie’s encounter with a drunk, there is also another one when she comes face-to-face with a sex offender. Katie has a gun and shoots the criminal, but Francie still feels as if she has been violated in some way. She starts menstruating around this time and begins to understand that women are supposed to be more modest about their sexuality than men are.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Book Summary, by Betty Smith

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