Oh, there's a story, and a damn good one, but really there is no plot line other than to know what happened to Francie Nolan from birth to age 16.
It's compelling, make no mistake. You get background on Francie's parents, which makes you wish for a better set of circumstances. However, you see there is hope for a brighter future, which pushes you through the book.
Although I've often wished to travel back to earlier days of the United States, this book made me take into account the early 1900s were quite difficult, especially for those who were uneducated.
Francie Nolan is a tenacious, but shy little girl. Like most children, she loves her parents despite their flaws. Francie often is confused by other children and how horrible they can be. However, she rises above what she's born into and finds a way out of the uneducated life her family has always known.
As she grows up, we see Francie not only through Francie's eyes, but many other characters -- her mother, Katie, her aunts Sissy and Evy, her father Johnny, and others -- often depict Francie from their own points of view.
I'm not an English scholar, so I don't necessarily stop to find the meaning in every book.
This book is, quite simply, about humans living their lives to the best of their abilities with the situations they're given. It is about human beings struggling to survive.
But what drew me into the book were the vivid descriptions of early 1900s Brooklyn and New York City, and the people who lived there.
It was little details like Katie's "vici-kid high buttoned shoes" that caught my attention. I actually had to look up what the heck these things are:
It was descriptions of junk dealers in Francie's neighborhood, the dingy tenements the families lived in and the strange and sad family dynamics that made this book so interesting.
Many called "The Grapes of Wrath" the defining book of The Great Depression.
I wouldn't go so far as to call "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" a defining book of a generation. But I would say, it excels at showing the joys and sorrows of human life with such triumph that it is definitely hard to put down.