A Tree Grows in Brooklyn pdf Summary, Characters, Reviews, Author

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith is a 1943 semi-autobiographical novel written by Betty Smith. The story focuses on an impoverished but aspirational adolescent girl and her family living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, during the first two decades of the 20th century. The book was an immense success. It was also released in an Armed Services Edition, the size of a mass-market paperback, to fit in a uniform pocket. One Marine wrote to Smith, “I can’t explain the emotional reaction that took place in this dead heart of mine… A surge of confidence has swept through me, and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all.” The main metaphor of the book is the hardy Tree of Heaven, whose persistent ability to grow and flourish even in the inner city mirrors the protagonist’s desire to better herself. In this article, you will be able to download the pdf version of A tree grows in Brooklyn as well as do the following amazing things;

  • Get A tree grows in Brooklyn summary by Betty Smith
  • Learn more about the author the book A tree grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  • Learn vital information about the book A tree grows in Brooklyn pdf
  • Read (online) an excerpt from A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • Major characters in the book A tree grows in Brooklyn
  • Where to buy A tree grows in Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith online
  • Read reviews about the book A tree grows in Brooklyn
  • Download A tree grows in Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith
  • Watch video review of a tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Please note that the author of this book has put in a lot of effort in writing this book. It will be a good gesture and a show of support to buy the paperback version of the novel titled The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho after reading the free pdf version you have downloaded.

Quick Navigation

A tree grows in Brooklyn Summary by Betty Smith

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life―from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience. Here is an American classic that “cuts right to the heart of life,” hails the New York Times. “If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you will deny yourself a rich experience.”

About the Author of the book Summary – Betty Smith

Betty Smith was born Elisabeth Wehner on December 15, 1896, the same date as, although five years earlier than, her fictional heroine Francie Nolan. The daughter of German immigrants, she grew up poor in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the very world she recreates with such meticulous detail in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Smith also wrote other novels and had a long career as a dramatist, writing one-act and full-length plays for which she received both the Rockefeller Fellowship and the Dramatists Guild Fellowship. She died in 1972.

Information about the book Summary (Amazon)

A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn By Betty Smith

Excerpt from A Tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

 © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

By Smith, Betty


ISBN: 0060736267
Chapter One

Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn’t fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer. Late in the afternoon the sun slanted down into the mossy yard belonging to Francie Nolan’s house, and warmed the worn wooden fence. Looking at the shafted sun, Francie had that same fine feeling that came when she recalled the poem they recited in school.

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring
pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green,
indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld.

The one tree in Francie’s yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts. You took a walk on a Sunday afternoon and came to a nice neighborhood, very refined. You saw a small one of these trees through the iron gate leading to someone’s yard and you knew that soon that section of Brooklyn would get to be a tenement district. The tree knew. It came there first. Afterwards, poor foreigners seeped in and the quiet old brownstone houses were hacked up into flats, feather beds were pushed out on the window sills to air and the Tree of Heaven flourished. That was the kind of tree it was. It liked poor people. That was the kind of tree in Francie’s yard. Its umbrellas curled over, around and under her third-floor fire-escape. An eleven-year-old girl sitting on this fire-escape could imagine that she was living in a tree. That’s what Francie imagined every Saturday afternoon in summer.

Oh, what a wonderful day was Saturday in Brooklyn. Oh, how wonderful anywhere! People were paid on Saturday and it was a holiday without the rigidness of a Sunday. People had money to go out and buy things. They ate well for once, got drunk, had dates, made love and stayed up until all hours; singing, playing music, fighting and dancing because the morrow was their own free day. They could sleep late — until late mass anyhow. On Sunday, most people crowded into the eleven o’clock mass. Well, some people, a few, went to early six o’clock mass. They were given credit for this but they deserved none for they were the ones who had stayed out so late that it was morning when they got home. So they went to this early mass, got it over with and went home and slept all day with a free conscience.

For Francie, Saturday started with the trip to the junkie. She and her brother, Neeley, like other Brooklyn kids, collected rags, paper, metal, rubber, and other junk and hoarded it in locked cellar bins or in boxes hidden under the bed. All week Francie walked home slowly from school with her eyes in the gutter looking for tin foil from cigarette packages or chewing gum wrappers. This was melted in the lid of a jar. The junkie wouldn’t take an unmelted ball of foil because too many kids put iron washers in the middle to make it weigh heavier. Sometimes Neeley found a seltzer bottle. Francie helped him break the top off and melt it down for lead. The junkie wouldn’t buy a complete top because he’d get into trouble with the soda water people. A seltzer bottle top was fine. Melted, it was worth a nickel. Francie and Neeley went down into the cellar each evening and emptied the dumbwaiter shelves of the day’s accumulated trash. They owned this privilege because Francie’s mother was the janitress. They looted the shelves of paper, rags and deposit bottles. Paper wasn’t worth much. They got only a penny for ten pounds. Rags brought two cents a pound and iron, four. Copper was good — ten cents a pound. Sometimes Francie came across a bonanza: the bottom of a discarded wash boiler. She got it off with a can opener, folded it, pounded it, folded it and pounded it again.

Soon after nine o’clock of a Saturday morning, kids began spraying out of all the side streets on to Manhattan Avenue, the main thoroughfare. They made their slow way up the Avenue to Scholes Street. Some carried their junk in their arms. Others had wagons made of a wooden soap box with solid wooden wheels. A few pushed loaded baby buggies. Francie and Neeley put all their junk into a burlap bag and each grabbed an end and dragged it along the street; up Manhattan Avenue, past Maujer, Ten Eyck, Stagg to Scholes Street. Beautiful names for ugly streets. From each side street hordes of little ragamuffins emerged to swell the main tide. On the way to Carney’s, they met other kids coming back empty-handed. They had sold their junk and already squandered the pennies. Now, swaggering back, they jeered at the other kids.”Rag picker! Rag picker!” Francie’s face burned at the name. No comfort knowing that the taunters were rag pickers too. No matter that her brother would straggle back, empty-handed with his gang and taunt later comers the same way. Francie felt ashamed.

Major characters in A tree grows in Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith

·         Mary Frances Nolan

The protagonist of the novel. Francie is the daughter of second-generation Americans living in Brooklyn, New York in the early twentieth century. She is named after her father’s dead brother’s fiancée. Francie is poor, but bright, observant, and taken by the wonders of the world. She is a combination of her hard-working, practical mother and her imaginative, dreaming father. She has a great capacity to see beauty amidst material hardship. Growing up without luxury, and sometimes without friends, she loves to read, and creates new worlds through her writing.

·         Katie Nolan

Francie’s mother. Katie comes from a family of strong women, and epitomizes this type. She is hard and detached ever since she had her two children and realized she could not depend on Johnny, her husband to support her family. Ever since he was born, she has loved Neeley more than her daughter, although she strives to treat them equally. She is extremely hard-working, she saves money as best she can, and will do anything so that her children can live a better quality life than she. Extremely proud, she vows that life isn’t worth living once one gives in to charity.

·         Johnny Nolan

Francie’s father. Johnny is a young Irish singer-waiter as talented as he is weak. He is a dreamer without the resources or abilities to make his dreams reality. He loves his children, but is an alcoholic who can not always be a good father in a conventional way. Francie dreads his drunkenness, Johnny is loved by Francie more than Katie is. Like Katie and Mary Rommely, Johnny knows that an education will allow his children to live a better life than he has. He lives in a drunken dream world, where most of what he knows of life comes from the song lyrics he sings.

·         Cornelius Nolan

Francie’s younger brother by one year. Growing up, he and Francie experience life together and grow to be close friends. He is both a loving brother and a typical boy. He looks just like his father, and his mother thinks of him as someone she can be like Johnny, without Johnny’s faults. Indeed, he is musical, but hard-working, and does not like alcohol.

·         Aunt Sissy

Katie’s oldest sister. The first of Mary Rommely’s daughters, she is the only daughter who has not learned to read and write. Her two failings are that she is a great lover and a great mother (even before she has a child of her own). Taken to an extreme, these qualities get her into trouble. These qualities also ensure that she is constantly giving, and never taking. Her charm with men means that she can convince them to believe or do almost anything. She has a reputation as an easy woman, but everyone who knows her knows that she is a good person. Her sisters always end up forgiving her foibles. Francie absolutely adores her.

·         Aunt Evy

Katie’s older sister. Hard-working and practical, she does not understand Katie’s few bursts of wastefulness. She married Willie Flittman and works at his jobs when he no longer can. She does fantastic imitations, especially when poking fun at her husband.

·         Mary Rommely

Francie’s maternal grandmother, who came to America from Poland. She believes in the supernatural, tells ghost and fairy tales, and is a devout Catholic. She has hope for her family because America makes dreams possible, and the in this country, the education is free. She is sure that Katie will have a better life than she did because Katie can read and write, and that Francie’s life will be better than Katie’s because she will go to school longer. Among other things, she advises Katie to save money so one day she can buy her own land, and read to her children every night.

·         Mr. McGarrity

The saloon keeper in the bar where Johnny hangs out and gets drunk. He is a dreamer. Wishing he had a family like Johnny’s, he lives vicariously through Johnny, and misses him enough to help out the family after he dies. He represents a means by which the Nolans feel Johnny’s presence after his life.

·         Flossie Gaddis and Henny Gaddis

The girl who lives downstairs from the Nolans in their house on Grand Street, Flossie is a teenager when Francie is a young girl. She is crazy about boys, and keeps a whole closet filled with costumes for Saturday night extravaganzas. Her favorite boy is Frank, who she ends up marrying. Henny is her younger brother who dies of consumption.

·         Frank

A young boy who rides the dentists’ wagon and takes care of his horse. Flossie gives him more attention than he would like.

·         Uncle Willie Flittman and Drummer

Uncle Willie is Evy’s husband and Drummer is his horse. They have a mutual hatred for each other. Willie feels he is a failure and often is the subject of Evy’s best imitations and jokes.

·         John

Sissy’s third and last husband. The reader does not learn his real name (Steve) until very late in the book, since Sissy calls all of her husbands and lovers “John.” Steve, like all Sissy’s men, goes along with her wishes almost all the time. By the end of the book, though, he stands up for himself.

·         Annie Laurie

Johnny and Katie’s third child. She is born five months after Johnny dies, when Francie is fourteen. She is named after a song Johnny used to sing, and will carry Mr. McShane’s name.

·         Sergeant McShane

Katie’s second husband, who she is about to marry when the book ends. He is a successful public figure, and so will support Katie and her children well. He is also a good man, faithful till the end to his sickly, troubled wife. He enters the book at the Mattie Mahoney Association excursion.

·         Ben Blake

A very bright, successful young man who Francie meets in summer college classes. He will attend a Midwestern college, and then law school. He makes Francie happy, keeps her from feeling lonely and knows what he wants.

·         Lee Rynor

A soldier about to leave for France when Francie meets him through her friend, Anita. Passionate and sweet, he knocks Francie off her feet and in turn professes his love for her, too. Two days later, he marries his fiancée from his hometown. He is the source of all of Francie’s heartbreak.

·         Miss Garnder

Francie’s eighth grade English teacher. Self-righteous in her convictions, she believes that writing should only be about “beauty” not ugly things like poverty and drunkenness. Not only does she insult Francie about her background, but she also gives her poor marks on the compositions she wrote after Johnny’s death, and does not allow Francie to write the graduation play.

·         Mr. Jenson

The janitor at Francie’s new school. He is loved and respected by the students and faculty even more than the principal. He represents the kindness that pervades this school, even for poor kids.

·         Man in the Tree Lot

A gruff but warmhearted man, he feels bad chucking the tree at Francie and Neeley. Like many characters in Brooklyn, his rough speech and curses are meant to be taken kindly. Like many proprietors in Francie’s neighborhood, he reluctantly takes advantage of kids in order to feed his own.

·         Joanna

A young unmarried woman with a baby, who is the object of the neighborhood women’s cruelty. She represents one stage in Francie’s fall from innocence.

·         Hildy O’Dair

Katie’s best friend when she was a young girl. She dated Johnny before Katie and Johnny fell in love.

·         Miss Lizzie Tynmore

Poor piano instructor who lives with her sister in the Nolan’s building. She is proper and punctual, and never has quite enough to eat.

·         Doctor and Nurse

Two medical workers who administer vaccinations in Brooklyn. The doctor, who went to Harvard is cruel in his assumptions about the poor in Brooklyn. The nurse grew up in Williamsburg and tries to hide her poor background.

·         Little Tilly and Gussie

Children in the Nolan’s neighborhood. Gussie is famous for never being able to wean from his mother’s breast, stealing all of Tilly’s milk. Johnny, in his pity for Tilly, takes the three-year-old on the comical fishing trip to Canarsie.

·         Carney

The junkie in Williamsburg, he collects scraps the children collect and gives them pennies in exchange. He likes girls better than boys.

·         Cheap Charlie

Owns the penny candy store in Williamsburg. He is the ultimate recipient of Carney’s pennies, and lures kids in by making them think they might earn a nice prize.

·         Lucia

A Sicilian woman who becomes illegitimately pregnant. She is ill-treated by her father and family until Sissy offers to take her baby, and befriends and cares for her.

·         Florry Wendy

Ten-year-old girl at the end of the novel. She sits on her fire escape and watches Francie get ready for her date.

Where to buy A Tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

You can buy this great American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century from the following sites:


Read reviews on A Tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Editorial reviews and praise for the book

“Betty Smith was a born storyteller.” — USA Today

“One of the books of the century.” — New York Public Library

“A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life. . . . If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience.” — New York Times

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn deserves to be thought of as one of the greatest American novels.” — The New Yorker

“One of the most cherished of American novels….It is the Dickensian novel of New York that we didn’t think we had.” — New York Times

Customer reviews on Barnesandnoble for A tree grows in Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith

5 out of 5 stars
10 months ago  
One Of The Very Best!!!

I wrote a review for this book many years ago, but I want to say it again; ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN! You can feel it, taste it, see it, experience it, etc….Kudos for Ms. Smith….This was such a wonderful read!

5 out of 5 stars.2 years ago  
Good Book

I read this for a school requirement about 5 months ago and I was very entertained! This book is about a girl who has the traits a bildungsroman character would have. The book is about a girl and her family trying to get through their financial situation, and it leaves you satisfied at the end. I reccommend you read this book!

5 out of 5 stars
3 years ago  
Francie Grows Up In Brooklyn With Her Parents And Brother In 1910. …

Francie grows up in Brooklyn with her parents and brother in 1910. Most of the story is told through her eyes as she grows up. She has a level head and sees people and situations for what they are. I liked her. This book is a timely today as it was when written and during the time period it is set. The attitudes from then are, unfortunately, the attitudes of today. Francie and her family were poor. Her mother worked cleaning several buildings. Her dad found work as a singing waiter when he could. The kids contributed to the family coffers in small ways. Addiction and abuse are all around them. But good is around them also. Katie, the mother, realizes that her children will be more educated and live better lives than she and Johnny. She wants that for her children. They have a hard life but they rise above it. I loved Katie’s sister, Sissy. She adds color to the story but loves her family. I found this a hard book to read but I am so glad I read it. The lyricism of the prose is beautiful. Each chapter is a vignette of their lives at a particular time–trivial things that make a life. It is a wonderful read.

5 out of 5 stars.
5 years ago  

One my favorite movies for years so I finally decided to read the book. Funny how I rarely like a movie if I’ve read the book first, but I always love reading the book after I’ve seen the movie. This one is deep, rich and satisfying. Something to savor.

5 out of 5 stars.
7 years ago  
The Book That I’m Reading Is Called A Tree Grows In Brooklyn . I

The book that I’m reading is called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn . I give the book a 5 out of 5 stars because the book is extremely relate-able. It takes place in the early 1900s but everything that goes on in the book can happen in this current day of age . The way Betty Smith wrote the novel you can just imagine everything going on right in front of your eyes . That is sometimes hard for books that have been written so long ago. Each chapter just makes you want to continue reading on . The details never leave you guessing or confused.

5 out of 5 stars.
8 years ago  
Great Reading.

I read this wonderful book for the first time over twenty years ago. I enjoyed it just as much this time as I did in my teens. So rich, so full of great characters. It’s a book you keep reading until it’s done and then you feel lost because it’s finished.

5 out of 5 stars.
8 years ago             
I Was 10 Years Old When I Read This Wonderful Book About A Stron

I was 10 years old when I read this wonderful book about a strong mother and an equally strong tree outside her apartment window. I focused a lot on the motivated mother and the secret jar of pennies she accumulated over time, despite the grinding poverty alcoholism causes in the family. Pennies were my first metaphors of determination in the tiniest of increments and, the slow development of a tree that grew no matter where its first roots were planted was the second metaphor. First he mother, and then her daughter branched to their resilience too. A classic!

Customer reviews on Amazon for A tree Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith

Elizabeth Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything!
Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2018
Verified Purchase

Highly recommended particulary for the under 18 and older than 12 crowd. This is the book that convinced my sixth grade self that I wasn’t uncool for spending so much time reading and dreaming. For if those things were satisfying for Francie Nolan they were good enough for me. I loved the quiet pathos of the book. Francie’s mother’s determination to teach her children with nightly readings of William Shakespeare and the Bible are in stark contrast to their father’s devil may care attitude. Her father encouraged Francie to dream big .. her mother taught her that dreams are fine as long as you keep one foot on the ground. I think this book is equally compelling for adults. There are adult situations. Situations like alcoholism, deviant behavior, and death that serve as a perfect way to introduce and discuss these matters with young tweens and teens. It has been almost 80 years since publication but the novel has aged very well. After 40 years and rereadimg the book countless times Framcie Nolan is still my literary friend. This book is simply marvelous.

Kathy Edens
5.0 out of 5 stars Today’s “snowflakes” could never cut it
Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2019
Verified Purchase

This book is thought to be semi autobiographical. Written years ago, it is amazing how much is true today. Especially in the political arena. The story is simply about a family living in Brooklyn as seen through the eyes of the young daughter, born in approximately 1900. The plot is simply the day to day life and struggles of the family consists of Johnny and Katie Nolan, their son Neely and daughter Francie. Appearing frequently are Katies two sisters and their family. The father, Johnny, is an alcoholic who seldom works but who is looked upon by Francie as a hero. Katie works as a scrub woman cleaning several tenement buildings. Other than an occasional singing waiter’s job that Johnny finds And almost more than the money he brings home is the leftover food he is allowed to take to his family at the end of the night., Katie is the primary source of the family’s support. Johnny is a dreamer who keeps saying his ship is going to come in but it never does. Katie is pragmatic. I found one conversation between the two to be very interesting when they were discussing an upcoming election. Johnny was a union man and therefore a democrat. Women didn’t have the right to vote yet but Katie was very astute and had figured out the democrat candidates came around only at election time making promises they never kept. And she also realized the democrats supported unfettered immigration because they thought all new immigrants would vote democrat once they were citizens. (Keep in mind this was written decades ago so please do not accuse me of inserting my own political thoughts into the book. It is the author who wrote it.) The two children had to help contribute to the support of the family by doing things that the kids of today would never do. They walked home from school with their eyes downcast, looking at the streets and sidewalks to find any penny that had been dropped, or a bit of foil, cigarette butts, pieces of cloth, that they could sell to the scrap metal man, or the rag picker to get a couple of pennies to take home. The children are sent out each Saturday to get some food that is cooked and eaten throughout the next week. They have to haggle with the meat man and oversee the green grocer’s selection of a vegetable to ensure he doesn’t stick them with something wilted. They are bullied and called names….usually by other children just as poor as they are….but they learn to endure. Eventually, after the death of their father, their circumstances actually improve because at the age of 13 and 14 the two kids get jobs and therefore are able to contribute their pay to the family. As the book ends, one has to wonder how many people today could actually live the life this family did. I’m sure that today’s snowflakes couldn’t cope with what this family did, especially when you hear that students of today need safe spaces whey they can play with puppies, or play dough all because they hear someone utter a comment with which they disagreed. This book should be required reading for every literature class, whether it be high school or college. It might open some eyes, and maybe some minds.

Download A Tree grows in Brooklyn pdf by Betty Smith

Use the button below to download the eBook free and after reading the book, consider buying the paperback version.

Check the category below:


Watch video review of A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith below

A Tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *